Today I made a first-ever visit to one domaine, and a regular stop at a well-known domaine.
Paret’s cave is located right on the main square, next to the church in the town of St.-Pierre-de-Bœuf. Paret, 62, took over from his father in ’73, switching from the family fruit business (peaches, cherries) to planting vines. His son Anthony, 35, has since joined him.
Quietly, this is one of the larger estates in the Northern Rhône, with nearly 250 acres of vines producing 40,000 cases annually. A good chunk of the production is varietal Viognier from the Pays d’Oc, but nonetheless, with 50 acres in Côtes du Rhône, 37 in St.-Joseph and 17 in Condrieu, this is a well-situated domaine.
The Parets pride themselves on producing wines of perfume and minerality—though the two Condrieu bottlings can buck that trend. But starting with the Côtes du Rhône Valvigneyre 2009, made from Syrah sourced from vines on the plateau above the St.-Joseph AOC, you get an immediate feel for the house style, with floral and mineral notes and a tangy cherry finish. The wine is vinified in a mix of cement, stainless steel and fiberglass tanks and typifies the unadorned, supple style of a non-oak cuvée.
The St.-Joseph Les Larmes du Père 2009 was just bottled last week. It’s sourced from a 12-acre block of vines on granite hillsides. It’s aged in barrel but only 15 percent of which is new and it’s a lively cherry- and sanguine-filled red with a long, fine-grained finish.
“The 2009s are rich, complex, beautiful,” said Anthony. “But in ’10 it was more heterogeneous, so I’m not sure yet how it will play out.”
Aging for the St.-Joseph 420 Nuits 2009 has trended down from 100 percent new oak aging over the past several vintages to just 50 percent. It’s plumper than the Larmes du Père, with more obvious spice, sandalwood and cocoa powder hints, but it stays stylish, with a long, black cherry finish. The grapes come from granite soils on the north side of the town that produce more tannic wines than the southern edge, and the grapes are predominantly Serine, the local name for the ancient variety of Syrah that tends to offer more perfume and acidity.
The St.-Joseph 730 Nuits 2009 is a selection from within the parcel used for the 420 Nuits. It’s vinified the same way, but gets a touch more new oak (75 percent) and there are just eight barrels produced. It’s darker in profile, with more tarry grip and lots of black tea and olive notes.
As the Parets have shifted down on the amount of new oak, they’ve kept their barrels longer, up to five years.
“We use medium-plus toast,” said Anthony, “but it comes off as more fine-grained than powerful, because the barrels are used.”
While Alain planted most of the domaine, Anthony developed the family’s 6 acres of vineyards in Seysseul, started with plantings across the river from Côte-Rôtie and just next to the Vienne vineyards of Vins de Vienne, Stéphane Ogier and others. The Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes Sublinae 2009 is the first vintage for the wine, sourcing fruit from vines situated on clay-and-limestone soils. It’s destemmed and fermented in stainless steel and then aged for a year in used barrels, it offers dried cherry and olive notes and dusty, lengthy tannins. The Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes Serinae 2009 is sourced from vines on schist soils, which tend to give more structure; consequently the wine is partially destemmed, fermented in wooden vat and then aged for 24 months in barrel, nearly one-third of which are new. It’s pungent, with strong pepper, iron, bay leaf and olive notes leading the way for mouthwatering cherry and sanguine notes—fans of the minerally style will surely dig it.
For the whites the Côtes du Rhône White Valvigneyre 2009 is an all-Viognier cuvée that is a terrific value (only $13), with light, breezy green plum and kiwi notes. The St.-Joseph White Les Larmes du Père 2010 is made entirely from Marsanne, fermented in barrel but only 10 percent new. It shows bright white peach and Cavaillon melon notes with a refreshing finish.
“The whites are definitely fresher in ’10 than in ’09, with better acidity,” said the elder Paret.
It shows in the two Condrieu cuvées, which are typically, round and opulent in style, bucking the general trend of the wines here. The Condrieu Les Ceps du Nébadon 2010 is sourced from vines on granite soils, fermented in oak (25 percent new) and given ample batonnage (stirring of the lees) and the plump quince, pear and heather notes all glide through the creamy finish.
“Condrieu is a bigger wine,” said Alain. “It can handle the extra lees contact.”
The Condrieu Lys de Volan 2010 is sourced from schist soils and sees more new oak (50 percent) for its ferment and élevage and so it takes on an even lusher pear tartine, crushed apple and graham cracker profile, though it’s kept balanced by a lightly firm melon rind note on the finish.
It’s always fun to make the winding drive up the slopes of Côte-Rôtie and onto the plateau above, to get to Jamet’s cave—a drive made even more exciting when you’re running a few minutes late.
This is one of my regular stops when I visit the Northern Rhône, as there is perhaps no more instructive tasting through the terroir of Côte-Rôtie than there is at chez Jamet, where only 22 acres of vines are spread of 26 different parcels and myriad lieux-dits—many vinified and aged separately, others blended. Jamet breaks the appellation down to its basic parts, before assembling what is consistently one of the most dynamic, traditionally styled wines in the appellation.
For additional background on the domaine, you can reference my notes from my March 2010 visit as well as my notes on a vertical of Jamet Côte-Rôtie tasted last year as well.
“I’ve heard that some ferments are taking a long time in ’10,” said Jean-Paul Jamet as we head down to the cellar to taste. “But here everything went through normally, and the wines have already been racked and sulphured for a few months.”
So, we start with the ’10, still in its component parts, in a mix of barrels and demi-muids. As usual, Jamet deals in the art of the blend here and the Côte-Rôtie 2010 is still in pieces, starting with the Lancement parcel, which was destemmed and shows tight but racy red currant and iron notes and a mouthwatering edge on the finish.
“I really like the freshness of the ’10 vintage. It’s concentrated, but balanced. It’s not a huge wine, but really direct. It’s the fruit and aromas of ’90 with the fresh tannin of ’06,” said Jamet.
Though Jamet has used more and more demi-muids in recent years, he dropped the percentage down to 25 percent for the aging of the ’10, as opposed to 50 percent for the ’09.
“The ’10 needs more oxygen because of the structure, so it is seeing more time in barrel,” explains Jamet. “But the ’09 needed some tension, and the demi-muids add that.”
Continuing through a selection of the ’10 components, the Rochains parcel of young vines was destemmed, but the wine shows dark fruit and lots of olive notes.
“It’s not unusual to get those from young vines,” said Jamet when I query him about the darker profile. “The key with young vines is they have a lower limit for stress, so you do need to destem them in dry years like ’10.”
In contrast, the Gerine parcel was fermented with its stems and it shows more nervy tapenade, tobacco and licorice notes with a taut finish. A barrel containing the Le Plomb and Le Truchet parcels together is very ripe, with ebullient cherry and currant fruit and a laser of iron cutting through the finish.
Moving to the Mournachon parcel, the wine turns very tight, with an even stiffer backbone of chalk and iron.
“This one is like ’05 for sure,” said Jamet, though he rebuts comparisons of the structured ’10 vintage in general to the strident tannins of ’05. “The tannins mark the finish in ’05 and the wines has been closed from the beginning. But the terroir marks the finish in ’10. There’s great material, but it’s just very serious,” he said, scrunching his eyebrows for effect.
We then move to barrels containing blends of Moutonne and Fontgeant or Moutonne and Chavaroche, which show fleshier, denser black fruit notes coupled with even more serious grip.
The latter coupling explains Jamet, “Is because Chavaroche is big and rich, but Moutonne very severe, so I wanted them together for better integration.”
The soul of the finished wine will likely come from the lot that combines the La Landonne, Côte Blonde and Côte Rozier parcels—it has stunning length and depth, with licorice snap, sweet tapenade, Maduro tobacco and mulled black currant fruit.
Insiders also know there is a small amount of a single parcel selection here, and the Côte-Rôtie Côte Brune 2010 is a compelling wine in the making, offering loads of bitter cherry, blood orange, tobacco, tar and a long, smoky grip-filled finish.
In contrast, the Côte-Rôtie 2009 plays to the charm and flattering profile of the vintage, as opposed to the serious, structured ’10.
“2009 is all charm,” said Jamet, flinging his arms open wide. “It’s the wine everyone will love right away. The ’10 is not an immediate wine—it will need to be thought through and not everyone will get it.”
Starting again with a lot of destemmed Lancement fruit (Jamet only destemmed 20 percent in ’09 and ’10), the wine shows more obvious flesh, with friendly cherry sauce and cocoa notes and a plush finish. The Gerine parcel is smokier and fleshier too, with lots of red licorice. A blend of Fongeant, Côte Brune and others shows dark linzer and cherry preserve notes.
A blend of Chavaroche and Fongeant from demi-muid is plush, with lots of red cherry and cocoa powder notes and a long finish that shows a touch more grip than the other. Then, Jamet draws a sample of the same lots, but from barrel and stands there, waiting for me to offer a thought. The barrel sample is rounder, richer, the demi-muid longer and more defined.
“You see!,” he said excitedly. “That’s why I used more demi-muids in ’09. It gives the length and tension to the wine. Otherwise it would have just been too big but without focus."
Pauline Decloedt — canada — April 17, 2011 9:48am ET
James Molesworth — Senior Editor, Wine Spectator — April 17, 2011 10:18am ET
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