2017 Domaine Bernard Levet, Cote-Rotie, Amethyste, Northern Rhone, France.
The warm year really shows here and the 2017 Bernard Levet Cote-Rotie cuvée Amethyste, 100% Syrah, is very opulent and luxuriously textured, it is surprisingly open knit in a departure in style from most of the Levet wines I’ve tried, which are usually much more lean and tightly wound when young, this lush version with be a crowd pleaser with those that open this one in this time frame with supple tannins and concentrated fruit density. This cuvee Amethyste is new to me, and it has only been imported since 2015, I usually enjoy the Levet La Chavaroche and the Les Journaries, which is always from the old vine plot at the La Landonne lieu-dit, one of Cote-Rotie’s premier sites, and my first impression is positive and my initial thoughts also reflect what importer Rosenthal says of the Amethyste, that it is a wine that is less severe and savage in nature and more open. This vintage was a hot year too, adding to the sense of ripeness on the smooth full bodied palate, delivering rich chocolaty dark fruits with blackberry, damson plum, sweet cherry and blueberry compote, all accented by delicate florals, a light smokiness, dried herbs, spices and creme de cassis, as well as anise, a hint of meatiness, mocha and lingering boysenberry and toffee notes. Fermented with about 60% whole bunches, with no Viognier, the dark purple/garnet Amethyste is an elegant and seamless Cote-Rotie, maybe missing a little of the excitement of their top bottlings, but a wonderful value.

The Levet Cote-Rotie(s) are uniquely fermented and aged with most vintages seeing a traditional partial whole cluster and with selected yeasts being employed during an almost month long maceration with gentle hand punch downs. The winery explains that they do their primary Syrah fermentation in epoxy lined cuves with the cuvaison lasting at least three weeks while malolactic fermentation normally finishes by the end of the year. They then rack the wine into large oak barrels where it spends a few months, after which, at the beginning of the second year, the wines are moved into demi-muids, a medium sized oak cask with about 15% of which are new. Then for the third year, the Cote-Rotie(s) are racked again and left to complete their barrel aging in a mixture of demi-muids and smaller barrels, with them seeing a totally elevage of 36 months before bottling with a light fining, but without filtration. The Domaine Bernard Levet has of 3.5 hectares of vineyards, all of which are located within the boundaries of the town of Ampuis, in the Cote Rotie appellation, all in prime zones, making for a tidy collection in this historic terroir with their vines consisting of six separate parcels, including their signature “Chavaroche” in Cote Brune with a southwest exposure and an average age 40 years, plus Landonne old vines, Font Jean, Les Craies, Mollard and the Moulin, one of the most famous parcels that is situated just below Guigal’s La Turque. Levet, founded under this label with the 1983 vintage is run by Nicole and Bernard Levet with their vigneron daughter Agnes now doing most of the heavy lifting here and continues the excellence that has made this winery one of the savviest of the region to collect.
($55 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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