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.

 

 


Images of Nyons

Nyons is the newest Named Village in the Rhône, since October 2020. I visited the area in 2019, but didn't take any photos as I didn't know it was going to be promoted at this stage! The following are images supplied by the Syndicat des Vignerons du Nyonsais. For the sake of completeness, I wanted to include some images on this site - it would be a shame to have photos of every appellation in the Rhône apart from one... I'll add further images of the people and terroir after I visit next year.

 

 

 

 

 


Images of the Diois

There are four appellations in the Diois: Clairette de Die (which equates to around 95% of all AOC wine), Crémant de Die, Coteaux de Die and Châtillon-de-Diois.

 

AOC Châtillon-en-Diois, in the far east of the region, makes still whites, reds and rosés from Burgundian varieties (and some Syrah).

 

Olivier Rey, president of co-operative Jaillance, which makes over 70% of AOC Clairette de Die, a sparkling white wine, usually sweet, made from at least 75% Muscat à Petits Grains Blancs and no more than 25% Clairette.

 

Marl vineyards at the centre of the Diois.

 

The other principal soil type is colluvial limestone scree.

 

Fabien Lombard of Domaine Peylong, one of the six producers to make AOC Coteaux de Die, a still, dry white made from 100% Clairette.

 

It was grey and wet when I visited, so here is a photo taken in sunnier conditions of Suze-sur-Crest © Juan Robert.


Images of Châteauneuf-du-Pape

The village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape viewed from the east

 

Châteauneuf-du-Pape, with the ruined château in the background

 

The village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape - smaller and quieter than you might expect

 

Morning in Châteauneuf-du-Pape

 

The cellar of Château de Beaucastel

 

Blending at Château de Beaucastel

 

Emmanuel Reynaud of Château Rayas (taken 2015)

 

Jean-Paul Daumen of Domaine de la Vieille Julienne

 

Christophe Sabon of Domaine de la Janasse (taken 2016)

 

Didier Negron of Domaine Roger Sabon (taken 2015)

 

Joris Laget and Daniel Chaussy of Mas de Boislauzon

 

Jean-Paul Versino of Domaine Bois de Boursan

 

Matthieu Faurie-Grépon of Mas Saint Louis

 

Véronique Maret of Domaine de la Charbonnière (taken 2015)

 

Stanislas Wallut of Domaine de Villeneuve

 

Laurent Brechet of Château de Vaudieu

 

Vincent Estevenin of Domaine de Marcoux (taken 2016)

 

Jean-Claude Vidal of Domaine du Banneret

 

Tastevin at Domaine du Banneret

 

Henri Bonneau (1938 - 2016) (taken 2014)

 

Henri Bonneau's yard

 

Vineyards in the north of Châteauneuf-du-Pape near Rayas

 

Sunset at the château

 

Châteauneuf-du-Pape at dusk

 


Images of Cornas

The village of Cornas

 

Largely east-facing slopes at the southern part of the appellation - lieu-dit Combe on the left, lieu-dit Patou on the right

 

Olivier Clape, with lieu-dit Sabarotte in the background

 

The slope in the background features the south-facing lieu-dit Reynard (left side, in shadow) and the west and south-facing lieu-dit La Geynale (spread around the pyramid-shaped hill to the right)

 

Soils here is decomposed granite, the rocks easily crumble in your hands to coarse sand

 

The view to the south-east towards the ruined Château de Crussol in neighbouring Saint-Péray

 

Ploughs, presses and tanks in Thierry Allemand's winery

 

Thierry's son, Théo Allemand

 

Olivier's father, Pierre Clape

 

Bottles in the cellar at Domaine Clape

 


Images of Hermitage

The south-facing hill of Hermitage; the lower part is lieu-dit Les Bessards, the upper part is lieu-dit l'Hermite with the 'chapel' on top.

 

Standing in lieu-dit Les Greffieux, looking up at lieu-dit l'Hermite to the left, lieu-dit Le Méal to the right

 

Never-ending wall building and upkeep

 

The front of the chapel

 

The wine named after it

 

Caroline Frey, current owner of Paul Jaboulet Aîné

 

Domaine Marc Sorrel Hermitage rouge 'Le Gréal' - a contraction of the names of two lieux-dits: Les Greffieux and Le Méal

 

Marc Sorrel (taken 2015) retired in 2019, handing over the estate to his son Guillaume

 

Bernard Faurie

 

Faurie's tiny cellar underneath his house

 

Jean-Louis Chave (taken 2016)

 

How roots grow through granite on Hermitage

 


Images of Crozes-Hermitage

Standing in one vineyard, looking up at another - the southern part of Crozes-Hermitage is a series of alluvial terraces

 

Classic pebbly alluvial soils of the southern part of Crozes-Hermitage

 

David Reynaud (taken 2013)

 

Gaylord Machon

 

Emmanuel Darnaud (taken 2015)

 

Alain Graillot (taken 2014)

 

To the north of Hermitage, the terroir is very different, more sloping, with different soils types. These are fine, white clay soils known as kaolin in Larnage.

 

Laurent Habrard in Gervans, the northern part of the appellation

 

Laurent Fayolle of Domaine Fayolle Fils et Fille (taken 2017)

 

René-Jean Dard of iconic Natural wine producer Dard et Ribo

 


Images of Brézème and Saint-Julien-en-Saint-Alban

Officially these are AOC Côtes-du-Rhône vineyard areas, but use of the names either Brézème or Saint-Julien-en-Saint-Alban are tolerated on labels.

 

Looking south-east over the gently sloping clay limestone vineyards of Saint-Julien-en-Saint-Alban on the west bank of the Rhône

 

Looking west along the foot of the limestone hill of Brézème on the east bank of the Rhône

 

Charles Helfenbein

 

There are two other sub-regions within Brézème after the hill of Brézème itself, both of which have pebbly sand soils: Le David and La Rolière (pictured, looking north towards Saint-Péray on the other side of the Rhône)

 

Mathieu Piedade, winemaker at Château la Rolière, with the mountain range of Les Trois Becs dimly visible in the background to the left

 

Yves Mengin of Domaine des Quatre Cerises, who started replanting the hill of Brézème after it had largely been abandoned. His project began in 1984, and his first vintage was 1998.

 

Domaine des Quatre Cerises rouge


Images of Saint-Péray

Standing in the southern part of the appellation on granite vineyards, looking north-east towards the Rhône

 

Looking east towards the Montagne de Crussol, a long ridge of limestone with the Rhône flowing behind it. An exceptional terroir, increasingly covered in housing rather than vineyards.

 

Sandy granitic soils on flatter vineyards of Saint-Péray

 

Fabrice Gripa of Domaine Bernard Gripa in front of his top vineyard 'Les Figuiers', planted by his grandfather

 

Tasting some older vintages with Fabrice, including this 1997 Les Figuiers which still held some interest and pleasure

 


Images of Château-Grillet

Château-Grillet is the name of the producer, a property with its own appellation to the south-west of Condrieu. It's surrounded here by its vineyards.

 

The oldest part of the building dates back to 1760

 

The property is comprised of several parts of different ages

 

The vineyards, all Viognier, rise up in a vertiginous amphitheatre behind the property

 

The upper triangular section in this photo was recently acquired by Château-Grillet and is used for their new Condrieu 'Carthery' (the buildings pictured don't belong to them)

 

Technical director Jaeok Cramette

 

They also own some of the east-facing vineyards visible along the road to the left

 

The new extension of 0.25 hectares (rootstocks planted in 2016) overlooking the Rhône

 

Some old bottles