2019 Rhône Report out now on Decanter Premium

With rolling travel restrictions and intermittent lockdowns this year, I was lucky to be one of the few Rhône specialists to taste the new vintage in situ this year. I spent two and a half weeks tasting over 1,300 wines from every cru in the Rhône Valley, both north and south. This is an extreme vintage, one marked by record temperatures and parched conditions, that has – where winegrowers have played their hand well – resulted in some exceptional wines.

In the Southern Rhône this is a particularly thrilling year for Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The best wines are concentrated, intense and powerful with abundant velvety tannins and – perhaps surprisingly – good levels of acidity. Some estates have produced some of their most impressive wines to date. But there are also countless overripe wines with unbalanced that lack freshness. Outside Châteauneuf, quality is less reliable, but it’s another very good year for Gigondas, not to mention other fresh terroirs such as Vinsobres. Whites, too, are better than I expected considering the uncompromising growing season.

The Northern Rhône is very good in places – especially Côte-Rôtie and the northern reaches of Saint-Joseph. As you travel towards the southern pole, the heat becomes more problematic, especially around Cornas. Hail devastated parts of Crozes-Hermitage, but thankfully it didn’t hit Hermitage, which has produced some majestic wines, both in reds white.

For a detailed breakdown of every appellation and notes on 450 wines, visit Decanter Premium www.decanter.com (paywall) over the coming week. An edited version of the report will also appear in the magazine, spread across two editions in early 2021.