2018 Domaine Jamet, Cotes du Rhone, Rhone Valley, France.
The gorgeously pure and wonderfully early drinking “Baby” Jamet, formerly a IGP Syrah, is now labeled as a Cotes du Rhone Rouge and (still) is 100% Syrah from three parcels, one from young vines inside the classic Cote-Rotie zone along with a plot close to the domaine just outside the regions set boundaries as well as some vines on a plateau above Condrieu with a combination of granite and mica schist soils. While I cannot afford the iconic Domaine Jamet Cote-Rotie too often or even find it for that matter, I adore this Domaine Jamet bottling for its value, ease of use and exceptional terroir character for the price, it is always makes me happy to sip in its dark purple hue, the deep black fruit, zippy herbs and its seductive smell of violets and earthiness. Now imported by famed Berkeley legend Kermit Lynch, Domaine Jamet has a real champion in his corner and American wine fans look set to have more access to these highly sought after wines, all of which is a good thing. Jean-Paul recently celebrated his 40th year growing and vinifying his Côte Rôtie, with the 2016 vintage, maybe one of the all time greats and one I do hope to try in some 10 or 20 years, as his whole-cluster and tannic Cote-Rotie wines are severe and old school in style, while this Cotes du Rhone is made using mostly de-stemmed grapes and is meant for enjoyment while you wait for the Cote-Rotie to age in the cellar, again if you are lucky enough to get them. You can sense the relationship to the top cuvee here and this wine gives a glimpse of its legendary status and prestige, its certainly a wine of cheap thrills, but one that deserves serious attention. I openly admit this wine gets extra credit for just being available and for how geeky I get when opening it!
Jean-Paul along with his wife, Corinne, and his son, Loïc farm a collection of tiny of sixteen (soon to be nineteen) lieux-dits, as Kermit Lynch notes, spread across the best sites of the Cote-Rotie appellation and makes their wine from the blending of all of these rugged and steep rocky set of vines. Kermit adds that, the Jamet path has remained true to his traditions, even as the appellation has modernized around them, Jean-Paul Jamet along with Bernard Levet, Closel-Roch, the youthful Xavier Gerard and a few others proudly fly the flag of their historic style. Despite its popularity, Lynch notes, Jamet always eschewed the use of excessive new oak in his top cuvee, choosing to maintain a cellar full of the classic large oak casks (demi-muid) and Jamet, obviously not a slave to fashion, remains firmly opposed to de-stemming his Cote-Rotie, continuing to vinify his Cote-Rotie in a stemmy whole-cluster fermentation. While this little Syrah from Jamet is 90% de-stemmed, it still has a hint of the stems and the grip to keep it interesting with layers of loganberry, damson plum, blueberry and ripe cherry fruits, accented by the mentioned violets, minty herb, anise, a touch of leathery funk and subtle peppercorns with a lingering creme de cassis. The 2018 vintage, less hot than 2017, is much fresher and vivid, it shows a nice bright core of acidity and the wine feels alive and cooly focused adding mineral and stony notes with air, it has plenty of fruit to please the medium bodied palate, but the savory tones really balance things out. As per normal here, this was fermented for about three weeks in stainless after a rigorous hand grape harvest and selection before resting the wine in used wood, with 10 to 20 year old barriques being used on this one, for about 11 months. The new label is more in line with the Domaine’s image and style, and the wine is well worth the effort to get it!
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive