Grapelive Special Report: Northern Rhone Syrah

A Handful of Interesting Syrah Wines from the Spiritual Home of the Varietal

By Kerry Winslow

RhoneSyrahGems

Syrah is a great and noble grape, it calls the historic northern Rhone Valley in France it’s historic and spiritual home, and places like Hermitage, Saint-Joseph, Cornas and Cote-Rotie are the some of the greatest regions on earth, and they rely on one red grape, Syrah. Here is a quick look at some fine new releases from Rosenthal’s wonderful import portfolio which were on display recently in San Francisco, this allowed me to taste these very intriguing examples, be sure to look for these at your local fine wine merchants.

2010LionnetCornas2010 Domaine Lionnet, Cornas “Terre Brulee” Rhone Red, France.
I’ve had the Lionnet Cornas over the last 4 or 5 vintages and have admired them, but this 2010 is by far the best yet and is a terrific Syrah of great class and style. This focused and lovely Cornas excise the senses and fulfills most Syrah lovers dreams, it is all about old school transparency and rustic charm with plenty of earth, spice, tannins and acidity, but it has pure and dense fruit that shines in a clean and refined way. The nose is full of violets, bramble, meat, kirsch and dried herbs leading to a robust palate of blueberry, boysenberry, soy soaked plum, wild game, anise, black olives and cracked pepper. With air this wine turns on the charm, it fills out, expanding and becoming rich and almost creamy, certainly this dynamic wine will reward those with patience, some short term cellaring looks to be a strong investment bet, and look for stylish drinking pleasure for at least a decade, drink 2016-2025.
($52 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2010CuilleronSTJOE2010 Yves Cuilleron, Saint-Joseph “L’ Amarybelle” Vieilles Vignes, Rhone Red, France.
This positively stunning and beautiful Syrah from Yves Cuilleron is a real gem, glorious and polished with pretty details throughout, Cuilleron fans will adore this Saint-Joseph that should also bring a whole new legion of followers to this renown talent. Cuilleron’s wines are clear, precise and vivid with pure varietal focus and this lovely medium weight Saint-Joseph is no exception. The 2010 L’ Amarybelle Vieilles Vignes is class in the glass with heightened floral tones that lean on violets, an intriguing palate of bright plum, blueberry, black cherry, juicy boysenberry and subtle dark currant fruits with layers of earth, spice, mineral and sweet herbs. There are touches of fennel, lavender, pepper and cedar that also linger on the long aftertaste, plus there are silky tannins well hidden and fresh acidity driving things underneath, this is sexy wine no question, drink 2014-2020.
($42 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2010GillesCornas2010 Guillaume Gilles, Cornas, Rhone Red, France.
I’ve only had a couple of chances to sample Guillaume Gilles wines, but each time has left an impression, these are wines to have, and his latest 2010 Cornas is a full blown rockstar, though still in it’s infancy, just remember to get a few bottles, you’ll want to hold at least one for the future. The 2010 Cornas shows vibrant intensity with a mix of floral and meaty notes on the nose, violets, bacon fat, truffle and scorched earth along with tangy blueberry, before a mouthful of briar, and spices with a rich core of boysenberry, cherry and plum fruits. Firm tannins, chalky minerals and subtle wood notes are also present in this robust Syrah from the northern Rhone. After air and coaxing, this Gilles Cornas really comes alive and certainly turns attractive and more polished, it fills the mouth and lingers beautifully on the finish, hence my thoughts this wine has stunning potential to thrill with some cellar time. This is old world Syrah at it’s charming best and shows complexity and compelling seductiveness, drink 2016-2021.
($65 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2010LevetChavarocheCR2010 Bernard Levet, Cote-Rotie “Les Chavaroche” Rhone Red, France.
A cascade of glorious layers awaits you in this fabulous Cote-Rotie from Bernard Levet, a winery that is very new to me, and one I’ll be sure to follow from now on! The fascinating 2010 Les Chavaroche is an amazingly detailed and pretty Cote-Rotie with exceptional regional integrity and lovely artisan craftsmanship, this is stellar stuff without being overblown. The quality is top notch and the complex layers of flavors offer pleasing hedonism with black fruits, wild game, spice and mineral essences, plus refined tannins, lifting acidity and plush texture. The nose is delightful with violets, wild flowers, dried herbs and rose petals mixed with mineral, pepper and creme de cassis leading to a palate of blueberry, blackberry, boysenberry, cherry and plum fruits with warm stones, chalk, porcini, lavender and licorice. The bodied is rich, but fresh and medium in weight still, reminding you of it’s youth and there’s plenty of firm tannin and acidity still, making me think there is a nice lengthy future ahead of this lovely wine. Drink from 2018-2025 for peak performance, but I would be hard pressed to wait, this is wonderful Syrah.
($65 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2010BecherasSTJOE2010 Etienne Becheras, Saint-Joseph, Rhone Red, France.
A delightful and succulent Syrah can be found in Etienne Becheras’ 2010 Saint-Joseph, this is a nice and pure wine that gives plenty of pleasure and very good character. The Becheras shows mostly a light hearted, medium weight style with soft tannins and bright flavors with hints of violets, herbs and mineral with a good core of blueberry, plum and dark cherry, plus there is subtle cassis, pepper and grilled meat. While not too deep or complex, this is still a very classy wine and plenty fun, especially with cuisine like lamb or BBQ. There might be more to come with some cellar time, but I would not gamble on that, I’d just enjoy this fine effort over the next 2 or 3 years.
($32 Est.) 89 Points, grapelive