Interview with Jean-Paul Jamet, Domaine Jamet


To celebrate the publication of my new book, Wines of the Rhôneon 25th January, I'll be published a series of interviews with some of the most influential winemakers in the Rhône Valley, starting with this interview with Jean-Paul Jamet.

Interview with Jean-Paul Jamet 2nd March 2020 at Domaine Jamet
Edited for clarity and brevity

What are the different styles of Côte-Rôtie?

The soils have a strong bearing on the style of the wine. If a particular vigneron has this or that style, it’s often based on the terroir they have, the geographical location of their parcels. Those who have vineyards in the south of the appellation at Tupin, generally speaking the wines will be more elegant and charming, have more finesse. On the other hand, on the schist side – and there are various types of schist, some with a more floral, fruity, spicy expression, others having a more graphite side – they give wines that take longer to come around, that need a more careful élevage. After that, the approach of the winemaker can compensate, rebalance or bring out these characteristics.

And is that in the vineyard or in the cellar?

I’m thinking more about the cellar, with the vinification. It was fashionable to destem in the 1990s. Today we’re not so excessive in terms of destemming.

Was it traditional to use whole bunches?

In the cellars of old vignerons, I’ve seen old corking machines, old pumps, old tools but I’ve never seen on old destemmer. In Hermitage it would seem there were rudimentary old destemming machines. I wouldn’t say they’ve never existed here but I’ve never seen one in Côte-Rôtie.

Where did the practice of destemming come from in Côte-Rôtie?

It was really commercial considerations that encouraged winemakers to remove stems, because they brought a lot of imperfections with them. They do bring certain qualities too – but qualities that take time to become apparent. So destemming in the 1990s made wines that were more forthcoming, more accessible, more juicy, more flattering when young.

And it was scores – critics giving high scores to accessible wines that were then polished by new oak. It makes for impressive wines. But you lose the soul of the terroir.

I never changed my way of working. I’ve stayed within the small percentage of winemakers that stayed traditional. At the start of the 1990s, I was atypical for the appellation in fact. Everyone else was destemming and I was one of the rare winemakers not to. The only vintage I totally destemmed, paradoxically, was 2003. Since the start of the 90s I’ve had no destemmer, so it’s been 100% whole bunch.

Destemming was useful – and in certain cases it was needed. But today, lots of vignerons are starting to work with stems again.

Why did everyone suddenly think that more extracted wine was a good thing?

Because of scores from critics. I’m sorry to put it so bluntly, but it was chasing scores. When you destem and extract more, you get wines that are darker in colour, that are more tannic so they’re more impressive. Except they are less pleasurable; with more extraction you lose aromatics. It’s for each vigneron to ask themselves whether they want to follow fashion, or whether they want to make the kind of wines they want to make.

And what about new oak barriques?

It was all in the same period - destemming, extraction, new oak and – bang – you have a 99 out of 100 points – fantastic! Do you want to drink a bottle? No. But commercially, if you have a good score, you sell well in certain markets. It’s sad, but that’s how it is. It’s an approach, I’m not condemning it.

What are the most important points to take into account when making wine with whole bunches?

One thing is sure: when you’re working with whole bunches, you have to pick the grapes at a good level of ripeness, so you have to wait for longer before picking, which is a risk. With the destemmer you can harvest a week earlier and you’ll make a very good wine. It can snow, it can hail, whatever – the grapes are picked. Sometimes you can’t wait, and in that instance the destemmer has its place, it’s a good tool, but not one to use every year. In powerful, rich vintages such as 2019, when using whole bunches, you can drop 0.6% or 0.7% in potential alcohol.

Is that from dilution?

There are two effects; a bit of dilution from the water in the stems, and the stems absorb alcohol. You also lose a little colour; you lose a little acidity. But I find that brings another dimension to the wine. Often, I say when you use destemmed grapes you make a lovely Syrah, but when you use whole bunches you make a Côte-Rôtie. Because there are different balances linked to this vegetal component, which after some time, is no longer tastes vegetal.

Do stems help bring the terroir to the fore?

I’m convinced of it. In our tanks the vinification is often very similar, but there are big differences in the finished wines. For me, it’s more marked with those with stems. It’s my belief, but in wine there are no absolutes – it’s just my belief.

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 (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