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Spring wines: Rob Chase's Top 3 Rhônes

By Rob Chase, also posted in News on

Rob ChaseIt's all about Syrah…

So often in the past, we have been side-tracked into believing that the southern hemisphere vineyards have nailed that elusive Syrah quality which has traditionally enhanced the very best wines of the Rhône Valley – either playing a supporting role in a southern mix like Châteauneuf, or taking the lead in the wines from the north. Price, however, has had a major say in the matter, with decent ‘Shiraz’ at under £10 a bottle available from Australia, South Africa, NZ and Argentina. So why would one be tempted to splash out several times more than this on a Northern Rhône from the likes of Côte-Rôtie? Two wines - a 2012 St Joseph and a 2012 Crozes Hermitage from J.Boutin - have convinced us that it is still possible to find affordable and delicious Syrah north of Valence. At the end of 2013, Adnams Senior Wine Buyer Alastair Marshall and I discovered a couple of outstanding wines from the Northern Rhône, which we felt encapsulated everything that was great about Syrah. The two bottles in question migrated from our tasting room to an impromptu lunch at The Crown, so we could investigate further these wines’ potential, and celebrate their ‘discovery’. We are very pleased to say they passed muster, and are now available in our stores, online or by Mail Order.


Albert Boutin was a member of the first ever class of agronomists based in Lyon who, in 1900, worked on identifying the different terroirs of Côte-Rôtie, leading to official recognition and decree in 1940. His grand-daughter, Jeannine Boutin, has continued this fascination and passion for identifying the sites best able to achieve optimum fruit ripeness in the northern Rhône, whilst actively preserving its environment and flora and fauna. (This fighting spirit has presumably been handed down from Albert, who fought in the Resistance alongside Edouard Herriot, radical politician of the Third Republic, three-times Prime Minister and Mayor of Lyon). Jeannine’s son continues to build on this committed enthusiasm with his vineyards in the southern Rhône. Crozes Hermitage, Boutin2012 Crozes Hermitage ‘Les Hauts Granites’, J Boutin          £15.99 Jeannine’s Crozes Hermitage comes from two distinctive soil types; 85% is a mixture of limestone and iron-bearing clay soils, covered in parts with large rounded pebbles known as 'pudding stones' , and 15% is on granite loess (wind-blown sand). Whether or not you are interested in geology, there is little doubt that this combination sets ‘Les Hauts Granites’ apart. The hand-picked Syrah undergoes a lengthy, 5 week-fermentation, extracting supple tannins, colour and above all, flavour. This opens up into sweet, dark fruits on the nose and on the palate, intermingled with ripe cassis tones, black cherries and succulent black fruits and spices. The best Crozes we have tasted in years. Bottled unfiltered, drinking beautifully now, and through to 2018. Enjoy with spring lamb. Saint Joseph, Boutin2012 St Joseph ‘Parcelle de Jean’, J. Boutin            £17.99 Made from 98% Syrah, with a homeopathic 2% Roussanne added to enhance the aromas. Hand-harvested, fermented on the skins and matured for fourteen months, for a small part in 500-litre oak barrels and the rest in large oak vats. With the help of her son, Stéphane, the grapes are picked at optimum ripeness, which preserves the gôut de terroir, whilst showing elegance and richness. Jeannine makes wines that are charming yet serious, with the hallmark that all great wines share - which is the ability to be enjoyed in their youth, yet have the potential to mature beautifully if kept. Classic, savoury aromas with dark, brooding fruit. Notes of smoky bacon, violets and bracken. Bottled unfiltered, this is lovely for drinking now and for the next 10 years. Also excellent with spring lamb.

New arrival

A recently landed parcel of new and delicious wine from Vignobles Brunier, proprietors at Châteauneuf estate Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe. Mégaphone2011 Mégaphone, Ventoux                 £13.99 This is the first ever vintage of Mégaphone, a blend of Grenache and Syrah, from 17 acres of AOC Ventoux vines which are part of La Roquète – one of the family’s Châteauneuf estates, which they acquired in 1986. A delicious and traditional combination of grapes, garrigue, sun and rocky soils. Easy, gregarious drinking for kitchen suppers, yet serious enough for the ‘family-and-friends’ Sunday lunch.   If you have any wine questions, or would like specialist Fine Wine advice, please contact Rob by email.


Rob Chase