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The Rhône Valley - Top Producers of the Northern Rhône

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Photo: Château d’Ampuis, forming part of Guigal’s estate © Provided by DKBooks Château d’Ampuis, forming part of Guigal’s estate

Paul Jaboulet Aîné

Domaine Jean-Louis Chave

Château d’Ampuis, forming part of Guigal’s estate

Top Producers of the Northern Rhône

Domaine Clusel Roch - Côte Rôtie

location: 15 rue Laclat, Verenay, Ampuis
telephone number: 04 74 56 15 95
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: red: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1991, 1990
recommended wines: Côte Rôtie, Côte Rôtie Les Grandes Places

A hardworking husband-and-wife team, Gilbert Clusel and Brigitte Roch produce one of the most finely textured and elegant wines in Côte Rôtie. Much of their success is due to the excellent quality of the fruit. There is a regular cuvée and a special selection, Les Grandes Places, a more structured wine made from 60-year-old vines. Quantities of both are limited to an average 12,000 and 2,500 bottles, respectively. There is also a tiny volume of rich white Condrieu.


Domaine Jamet - Côte Rôtie

location: Le Vallin, Ampuis
telephone number: 04 74 56 12 57
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1991, 1990
recommended wines: Côte Rôtie

Brothers Jean-Luc and Jean-Paul Jamet make outstanding, long-lived Côte Rôtie from 25 parcels of vines scattered around the district. The lively fruit aspect of the wine is enjoyable up to five years’ age, or it can be cellared for eight years for greater complexity. Unfortunately, production is limited to just 30,000 bottles a year.


Guigal - Côte Rôtie

location: Ampuis
telephone number: 04 74 56 10 22
website: www.guigal.com
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: red: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1991, 1990
recommended wines: Côte Rôtie La Mouline, Côte Rôtie La Landonne, Condrieu La Doriane

Marcel Guigal is one of the key figures, if not the key figure, responsible for the revival of Northern Rhône wines. With quiet authority (and assisted by his son Philippe), he oversees a now-burgeoning empire, which includes the négociant wines of E Guigal, Vidal Fleury, and de Vallouit, as well as the domaine wines from his own vineyards. Best known of these are the richly intense but expensive single-vineyard Côte Rôtie wines La Mouline, La Landonne, and La Turque, as well as Château d’Ampuis from six different sites, and the voluptuously fragrant Condrieu La Doriane. There is also a very fine St-Joseph from vineyards acquired from Jean-Louis Grippat.


Domaine André Perret - Condrieu

location: Verlieu, Chavanay
telephone number: 04 74 87 24 74
website: www.andreperret.com
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: red: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998
recommended wines: Condrieu Coteau de Chéry, St-Joseph Les Grisières

The affable André Perret is a master at producing great Condrieu. His recipe includes a small percentage of over-ripe Viognier grapes blended with the rest of the harvest, natural yeasts, and 12 months’ aging in barrels and tank. He has two cuvées of particular note, the aromatic Clos Chanson and the stunningly full-flavored, elegant Coteau de Chéry. Perret also makes a juicy red St-Joseph, Les Grisières, which is the top wine.


Domaine Georges Vernay - Condrieu

location: 1 rte nationale, Condrieu
telephone number: 04 74 56 81 81
website: www.georges-vernay.fr
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: red: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996
recommended wines: Condrieu Coteau de Vernon

Georges Vernay is Mr. Condrieu. Back in the 1950s and 60s, when the district was being abandoned, he was the one who stoically replanted the terraces here. Today, the domaine extends to 16 ha and is run by George’s daughter, Christine, producing some much-improved Côte Rôtie and St-Joseph as well as three cuvées of Condrieu. The Côte Rôtie Maison Rouge is an ample but elegant wine; Condrieu Chaillées de l’Enfer and Coteau de Vernon are rich, full, and exotic, the latter with greater depth; both should preferably be drunk at three to six years.


Domaine Yves Cuilleron - Condrieu

location: Verlieu, Chavanay
telephone number: 04 74 87 02 37
website: www.cuilleron.com
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: red: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1991, 1990
recommended wines: Condrieu Les Ayguets, Côte Rôtie Terres Sombres, St-Joseph Les Serines

This Domaine has increased considerably in size and notoriety since Yves Cuilleron took over in 1987 and now totals 31 ha. There is a complex catalog of different cuvées from Condrieu, Côte Rôtie, and St-Joseph, all relating to specific parcels of vines. These are rich, dense, powerful wines, often marked by new oak in youth. The compellingly aromatic white Condrieu Les Chaillets is produced from the oldest parcels, and the sweet, citrus and marmalade Les Ayguets, also white, is made from late-harvested grapes. The top red cuvées include the St-Joseph Les Serines, and Côte Rôtie Terres Sombres and Bassenon. Yves Cuilleron is also involved in the Vins de Vienne-Seyssuel project .


Domaine Alain Graillot - Crozes-Hermitage

location: Les Chênes Verts, Pont de l’Isère
telephone number: 04 75 84 67 52
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: red: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995
recommended wines: Crozes-Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage La Guiraude

A former marketing manager for a large French industrial concern, Alain Graillot quickly settled into the life of a vigneron in the late 1980s, and he now turns out consistently good Crozes-Hermitage. The red is ripe and fruity; the top wine, La Guiraude, richly concentrated and ageworthy; and the white is fresh and aromatic. There is also a little spicy red St-Joseph and a tiny volume of supple Hermitage made from a parcel of vines in the Les Gréffieux part of the appellation.


Delas Frères - Hermitage

location: Z A de l’Olivet, St-Jean-de-Muzols
telephone number: 04 75 08 60 30
website: www.mmdusa.net
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: red: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1995, 1991, 1990
recommended wines: Hermitage Les Bessards, Hermitage Marquise de la Tourette, Côte Rôtie La Landonne

This négociant, owned by Champagne house Deutz and therefore the Roederer group, has made huge strides in recent years under the direction of oenologist Jacques Grange, previously of M Chapoutier. The reds, in particular, are good across the range: they have taken on greater weight, purer fruit, and a finer structure. The top wines include the powerful Hermitage Les Bessards and dense Côte Rôtie La Landonne. The Hermitage Marquise de la Tourette and Côte Rôtie Seigneur de Maugiron offer good value at a less excessive price.


Domaine Jean-Louis Chave - Hermitage

location: 37 ave du St-Joseph, Mauves
telephone number: 04 75 08 24 63
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: red: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1991, 1990
recommended wines: Hermitage (red, white), Hermitage Cuvée Cathelin

The neck labels of bottles from Domaine Jean-Louis Chave display the phrase “Vignerons de Père en Fils depuis 1481” (winegrowers from father to son since 1481). Gérard Chave took up the torch from his father in the 1970s, turning the domaine’s wines into a much-sought-after commodity. Now with his son, Jean-Louis (the name appears every second generation), he continues to produce firm, fine, long-aging Hermitage. The secret is the old vines located in seven different vineyard sites or climats, which are vinified separately and blended astutely. In what the Chaves consider exceptional years (most recently in 2000, 1998, 1995, 1991, and 1990), they make the more intense Cuvée Cathelin. The white Hermitage is also a long-aging wine, and there is a little rich, fruity St-Joseph red for more immediate consumption.


M Chapoutier - Hermitage

location: 18 ave Dr Paul Durand, Tain l’Hermitage
telephone number: 04 75 08 28 65
website: www.chapoutier.com
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: red: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1991, 1990
recommended wines: Ermitage Le Pavillon, Hermitage La Sizeranne, Côte Rôtie La Mordorée

This is another historic, family-owned négociant house run in a dynamic fashion by brothers Michel and Marc Chapoutier. The company owns an impressive number of vineyards up and down the Rhône Valley, including a large chunk in Hermitage, all of which have been converted to the bio-dynamic system of cultivation. The Hermitage sites produce the estate’s best wines. From an extensive portfolio, the top cuvées include: the powerfully structured Ermitage Le Pavillon (from Hermitage) and Côte Rôtie La Mordorée, both made from very old vines; the richly opulent, oaky white Hermitage Cuvée de l’Orée; and a rather luxurious red Crozes-Hermitage called Les Varonniers. The company also produces wines in the Côtes du Roussillon, Banyuls, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence, and in South Australia.


Paul Jaboulet Aîné - Hermitage

location: Les Jalets, RN 7, La Roche sur Glun, Tain l’Hermitage
telephone number: 04 75 84 68 93
website: www.jaboulet.com
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: red: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1991, 1990
recommended wines: Hermitage La Chapelle, Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert, Cornas Domaine de St-Pierre

Antoine Jaboulet established this legendary négociant house in the 19th century, and it remains very much a family affair. Although less consistent than it was in former years, it still has a number of eye-catching wines, particularly those sourced from the company’s own vine-yards. The flagship wine is the powerful, long-aging red Hermitage La Chapelle, produced from 25 ha of vines dotted over the Hermitage hill. Crozes-Hermitage has always been a strong Jaboulet line and includes the well-structured cuvées Domaine de Thalabert and Raymond Roure. The Domaine de St-Pierre, from Cornas, is a richly concentrated wine.


Domaine Clape - Hermitage

location: 146 rte nationale, Cornas
telephone number: 04 75 40 33 64
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: red: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1991, 1990
recommended wines: Cornas

The reserved and reticent Auguste Clape has been a pillar of Cornas for many years. Along with his son, Pierre-Marie, he produces an authentic, traditional Cornas brimming with ripe fruit but also firm and concentrated and without a trace of new oak. Since 1997 the young vines (12 to 16 years old) have been used for the cuvée Renaissance, while the older ones (25 to 60 years) make the top wine, simply called Cornas. Domaine Clape also produces a little generic Côtes du Rhône from Syrah, and an average 1,200 bottles a year of delicious St-Péray.


The new face of Seyssuel

website: www.vinsdevienne.com

In 1996, three of the Northern Rhône’s leading young producers, Yves Cuilleron, Pierre Gaillard, and François Villard, embarked on an ambitious project to resurrect the once-famous vineyard of Seyssuel. Located just above the town of Vienne on the Rhône’s right bank, the vineyard had been renowned as far back as Gallo-Roman times but disappeared with the arrival of phylloxera in the late 19th century. So far, 11 ha have been successfully planted on the south-facing schistous slopes and two wines have been produced, the aromatic Taburnum, made purely from Viognier, and the 100 percent Syrah Sotanum, which is as rich and spicy as many a Côte Rôtie. These exceptional wines are labeled Vins de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes, since Seyssuel is not an official appellation. To help finance the project, the three friends also founded a small négociant house, called Les Vins de Vienne, to produce small quantities of top-quality Rhône wines from purchased grapes.

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