Tasting T1.13 Northern Rhone Reds

The Northern Rhone red wines are synonymous with the Syrah grape variety. It is not the exact centre of where the first Syrah vine appeared but it is certainly the benchmark region that other Syrah’s are measured against. The style in which this region produces Syrah however, is completely different to any other region in the world. Their white wines are also considered to be some of the best in a warm climate. However, we are currently focusing on the reds as the Northern Rhone white wine tasting will happen at a later date.

Starting quite literally at the base of Vienne, the Northern Rhone wine region spans all the way down the Rhone river to just south of Valence where it finishes at Saint-Peray. The big villages being Cote Rotie, Condrieu, Saint-Joseph, Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Cornas and Saint-Peray. Cote Rotie, Cornas and Hermitage are arguably the most important appellations for red wines with all three regions being established in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. These wines are not for the faint-hearted with the most impressive offering powerful dark fruit flavours with chocolate, pepper and herbaceous notes. Some of the best wines are bold and powerful with excellent elegance and finesse. A truly great region… so lets crack on!

The Wineries are:

Domaine Alain Voge

In 1905 Alain’s great-grandfather, Henri Voge, crossed the Rhone river to settle in Cornas. Between 1905-1930 Henri Voge and his son… Henri Voge 😉 expanded the land that the family owned. They traded as fruit merchants and vine growers. Around 1950 Louis Voge, Alain’s father, followed in the footsteps and took over from his father. In 1961 Alain came back from Algeria and began working with his father. Unfortunately, his father passed in 1965 and Alain took the reins. It is fair to say that Alain changed a lot of things with the time he had. He started bottling his own wine just before 1970 rather than using a merchant. He protected the region against urbanisation in the early 70’s. He re-developed his entire vineyard in Cornas using mechanical diggers and JCB’s so he could re-plant everything in 1981. He built a new wine cellar in 1999 and in 2004 the SARL Alain Voge was created with Alberic Mazoyer as its Managing Director. Now the estate is synonymous with quality and history. He also makes cracking wines.

Domaine Réné Rostaing

Réné Rostaing built the reputation of his Domaine very much from nothing. The Domaine has 7.5 hectares of land and their now old vine Syrah is situated on some of the best sites in the Cote-Rotie. His son Pierre took over in 2015 and has certainly maintained the incredible standards set by his father. The wines are handled in a similar fashion to that of Burgundy, which of course is testament to Pierre’s time in Meursault before joining the family. They make 3 Cote-Rotie wines and a Condrieu which are all fantastic in their own rights.

M. Chapoutier

What we know of Chapoutier today actually started in 1808. Which realistically is incredible to think about. This was a creation of ‘Calvet et Compagnie’ in Tain. In 1897, however, the first Chapoutier came in and joined forces with Rodolphe Delepine to found ‘Delepine et Chapoutier’ who exported to Holland, Switzerland and Germany. In 1922 Rodolphe retired and in 1929 Marius built the new winery at the foot of Hermitage Hill and renamed it M. Chapoutier. Michel Chapoutier (current head of the company) took over from his father in 1990. He began immediately to apply his belief of biodynamic cultivation. In 1998 he bought an estate in Australia. In 2000 he bought one in Roussillon in France. In 2007 he bought one in Portugal. In 2009 he bought one in Alsace and then built a new production site in Tain which is genuinely massive. You get the point, he is everywhere all at the same time and still continues to produce some of the best Northern Rhone reds. It is extremely impressive and no wonder this Domaine gets so many plaudits.

Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné

The Domaine was founded in 19th Century by the Jaboulet family who started with a handful of vines in Crozes-Hermitage. Unfortunately, Gerard Jaboulet passed quite suddenly in the late 1990’s and the Domaine’s reputation did suffer until it was sold to the Frey family in 2006. The Frey family also own a Bordeaux Third Growth in Chateau La Lagune and Champagne’s Billecart-Salmon. Caroline Frey who oversees the Domaine’s estate and winemaking has rocketed Jaboulet back to the top ranks of Northern Rhone produces where it should be. The estate now has 120 hectares of organically farmed vineyards across the region. Spanning from Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage through Cornas and up to Condrieu. They create sumptuous wines and whilst their reds are extremely famous they also produce a bevy of gorgeous white wines as well.

Maison Delas Frères

Founded in 1835 originally as small wine merchants the rise in quality at Delas Frères since 1996 has been stratospheric. Quickly going back in time slightly, Delas Frères invited its friend Champagne Deutz to share their financial resources and expertise in 1977. Together they formed a powerful enterprise and were able to capitalise on shared markets and shared information. In 1993 they had created such a successful partnership that they were approached by the Rouzaud Family who have the majority shareholding in the Roederer Group. They joined the Roederer Group and a year later in 1996 Fabrice Rosset became CEO of Delas Frères and Champagne Deutz. Since then over the decades they have built a new production site, they have purchased more vines across the Northern Rhone and continually impressed in international markets with the impressive wines they produce. This is a cracking Domaine and I would highly recommend buying many of the wines they produce.

Tonight’s tasters are David, Harry, Kim & Jen.

Apologies for the lack of photos... in our haste for this tasting we just got over-excited and completely forgot!

Domaine Alain Voge Cornas Les Vieilles Vignes 2015

Hand harvested with 20% whole bunch fermentation for several weeks in stainless steel. Ageing in 228 litre barrels for 20 months with 15-20% new oak.

Note: Lots of fresh berries on the nose. Dark cherries and blackcurrant with ample cedar and garrigues aromas. Gorgeous fruit profile on the palate, excellent depth of flavour and concentration. Fantastic power throughout with a great medium – full body. Lots of freshness and vibrancy from the saline acidity and those tannins are embedding seamlessly into the wine which adds to the flavour and depth of the body. A really lovely wine and I would highly recommend it. Drinking well now and over the next 5-8 years.

Domaine Réné Rostaing Cote-Rotie Ampodium 2015

This is a blend of all the different plots that the winery has in Cote-Rotie. Hand harvested with fermentation in stainless steel vats and oak ageing for 12 – 18 months. 

Note: Extremely savoury here with hints of chocolate, herbs and dark fruits. Plums, prunes and black cherries, thyme and rosemary. Gorgeous layered body with great texture and fine, bold tannin. Again a great vibrancy of fruit with fantastic acidity offering balance and cutting through those bold fruit and herbaceous flavours. A really great wine and one that was a particular favourite of mine. Drinking well now and will evolve gracefully over the next 8 years. Absolutely cracking.

M. Chapoutier Cote-Rotie La Mordorée 2015

Hand harvested and vinified in concrete tanks. Aged in oak casks (225 Litres) with a small percentage of new oak for between 14 – 18 months.

Note: Dark fruit, blackcurrants, blackberry leaf and cedar notes. Sour cherries immediately on the palate with a really powerful fruit profile. A textured, medium body here with fantastic depth of flavour, the power of the fruit is king here. Smooth and great tannins here with so many layers of texture and a brilliant long finish. This has great mouthfeel and is certainly still a baby really… Needs a lot of time. This will evolve beautifully over the next 10-15 years.

Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La Petite Chapelle 2015

Note: Stewed fruits, prunes and garrigues are immediate aromas on the nose. Gorgeous depth of flavour on the palate with those stewed fruits and prunes taking centre stage. Fantastic acidity and the freshness of black fruit coming through as well. Fine tannins that are offering a fantastic layered and complex body which becomes so smooth in the mouth. The concentration of fruit runs all the way through to a sumptuous and elegant finish. This is as long as it is lip-smacking. A fantastic wine that is drinking oh so well now and will evolve over the next 8-10 years.

Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La Chapelle 2009

Note: Blackcurrants, black cherry and blueberry on the nose. Very dark and brooding on the palate which then opens up with sour cherries taking centre stage with black fruit closely behind. This is just golden and open in the mouth. Impeccably smooth on the palate with fine tannins offering up cedar and herbaceous notes. The body is smooth and powerful, however not over-bearing. Acidity is singing here with freshness still a key driving force all the way through to the extremely long finish. Drinking really well now and will certainly evolve for another 12 – 15 years.

Maison Delas Frères Hermitage Les Bessards 2009

Hand harvested with fermentation taking place in concrete tanks. Ageing in new oak barrels on second use for between 12 – 14 months.

Note: Lots of savoury aromas here with forest floor, dark cherries, blackcurrants and herbaceous notes. Seriously elegant with lots of concentration and depth of flavour. The body is smooth and luscious with fine, embedded tannins offering layers of texture and fruit. The complexity is outstanding and the herbaceous notes kick in on the mid-palate with excellent precision and then an overlapping mouthfeel of dark fruit and cedar retains the power throughout. This has so much more to give and is already extraordinary. This wine gives a beautiful moment of place and will evolve gracefully over the next 15 – 20 years.  


When I was younger I struggled slightly with 100% Syrah wines. Honestly, I do not know why, perhaps personal preference? As we all know, your palate changes over time as well so perhaps that was a contributing factor. Luckily for me, my palate has changed and over the last 3-4 years I have seriously enjoyed Syrah as a single varietal wine. These wines were a beautiful representation of their place within the Northern Rhone wine region.

All of the Domaine’s deserve special credit for the great wines that they produce. Whilst I am not the first to say this and certainly will not be the last, the Northern Rhone wine region has incredible producers who create fantastic wines. Granted these here are not cheap with the lowest at £65 a bottle and the Bessards at £240 a bottle. However, there are numerous producers who produce affordable and great quality wines throughout the region. This just gives you a snapshot of how good this region can be.

The scores:

Les Vieilles Vignes 2015 – 93 Points

Ampodium 2015 – 94+ Points

La Mordorée 2015 – 94 Points

La Petite Chapelle 2015 – 95 Points

La Chapelle 2009 – 97 Points

Les Bessards 2009 – 99 Points

Many thanks for reading as usual, I really hope that you enjoyed the article and tasting notes.

We will be back next week with another 60th Tasting… New World Sweet wines!

Have a good rest of your day and a lovely weekend 😊

Harry Vernau

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