Whilst much of viticultural France suffered adverse climatic conditions in 2017, resulting in the smallest aggregate grape crop since 1945, Côte-Rôtie enjoyed a fine growing season resulting in a larger than usual yield. To that end the authorities a granted 10% surplus above the official permitted maximum récolte, of 41 hectolitres per hectare, so no wonder Patrick Jasmin was upbeat when we visited him after the harvest.
Patrick benefits from holding 12 separate parcels of vines in 8 different lieux-dits across the Côtes Brune and Blonde giving him a enviably broad palette of fruit from which to make his final assemblage. His Côte-Rôtie 'La Giroflarie' (from 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier) is raised for 18 months in 228 litre barrels and 590 litre demi-muids prior to a light filtration and bottling. The finished wine has a somewhat Burgundian structure with violet and stewed, red berry scents and a palate of sleek, dark fruit with hints of leather, spice and some cooling granitic notes with fine-grained tannins. Like many Northern Rhône Syrahs it drinks surprisingly well on its youthful fruit (indeed a small barrel had been set aside for the après vendanges party at the time of our visit) but it takes 3-5 years to really hit its stride and will age well for a decade or more.
Anyone looking for forward-drinking, accessible Northern Rhône Syrah should sample Patrick's excellent IGP 'Collines Rhodaniennes' bottling, called 'La Chevalière'. With a bouquet of violets and supple palate of bright red fruit it drinks well from release and represents great value for money.
A short hop up the RN 86 in Verenay, the Champet frères, Romain and Maxime, produce a single vineyard Côte-Rôtie from their 4.5 hectare vine holdings on the Viallière climat on the Côte Brune. This is a traditional wine: the grape bunches are not destalked, there is no fining or filtration and it is racked into used demi-muids and large oak fûts for a year before bottling. It has classic dark plum and damson aromas and flavours over a framework of grainy tannins offset by a fresh acidity. It drinks well with 2-3+ years bottle age and has engendered a loyal local following who appreciate its unembellished style and price.
Making a welcome debut here is Christine Vernay's elegant and perfumed 'Blonde de Seigneur' bottling that is made from grapes from 4 different lieux dits on the 'Côte Blonde' downriver from Ampuis. Deploying 5% Viognier, full destemming and 25% new oak it is a very deftly-vinified wine with a garnet robe, a bouquet of dried flowers and dark cherries and a smooth, sensuous hedonistic palate of soft red and black fruit supported by silky tannins. Already immensely pleasurable, it should cellar well for at least a decade.