Not so long ago, the hillside vineyards of the Northern Rhône's Côte-Rôtie appellation lay dormant as local growers abandoned grapes in favor of higher-income crops. But over the last generation, a group of vignerons has reclaimed the top vineyards and revived the wine industry with some of the area's best Syrah ever.
Côte-Rôtie counts 130 grapegrowers, about 50 of which are currently bottling their wines. From that group, I've selected two dozen of the most important producers working in the appellation today to profile.
The profiles are arranged in alphabetical order by winery. Each listing includes the number of vineyard acres owned by the estate, its total annual production, a list of bottlings currently produced (in ascending price order) and a brief description of the domaine.
Note that some domaines may not have their entire acreage in production, may lease part of their vineyards to others, or sell off some of their grapes. Other domaines purchase fruit to augment their estate production; a few are solely négociants. We've also created a map pf the region to help you better understand Côte-Rôtie. For the second half of this report, see Part II.
PATRICK & CHRISTOPHE BONNEFOND
Acres owned 14.8 Cases made 2,100 Bottlings Côte-Rôtie; Côte-Rôtie Côte Rozier; Côte-Rôtie Les Rochains
Brothers Christophe and Patrick formed this domaine in 1990 out of their family holdings (previous generations sold the grapes to négociants). They have adopted a more modern style than others in the appellation, producing sleek, vivid wines that highlight purple and blue fruit flavors.
The Côte-Rôtie bottling is sourced primarily from Côte Brune parcels, with 20 percent from Côte Blonde parcels; it's aged for 18 months in 50 percent new oak. Both of the parcel-selection cuvées are aged in 100 percent new oak for 24 months; the Côte Rozier, however, is plusher and more forward, while the Les Rochains is more structured and grippier.
DOMAINE DE BONSERINE
Acres owned 22.2 Cases made 2,500 Bottlings Côte-Rôtie La Sarrasine; Côte-Rôtie La Garde
This estate is the second-largest vineyard holder in the appellation. It was purchased by E. Guigal in 2006, but continues to run independently. Winemaker Stéphane Carrel has borrowed some Guigal methods, utilizing extended barrel-aging for the wines (up to 36 months). The wines are dark, muscular and mouthfilling in style, with strongly toasty profiles.
The Sarrasine is made from a blend of young-vine parcels spread over the appellation, including La Côte Blonde, Fongeant and Le Champin; La Garde cuvée is a blend of the domaine's best parcels in both the Côte Blonde and Côte Brune. A third cuvée, from the La Vaillière parcel, is slated to debut with the not-yet-released 2005 vintage.
Acres owned 9.9 Cases made 1,665 Bottling Côte-Rôtie
Bernard Burgaud is one of Côte-Rôtie's old-timers, having produced his own wine since 1980 (his father sold the family grapes to négociants).
A proponent of the one-estate, one-wine principle, Burgaud operates in a traditional style. Thus, his Côte-Rôtie is made from a blend of grapes from all his vines, which include holdings in the Le Champin, Les Moutonnes and Fontgeant vineyards, among others. The wine is grippy and dark, with roasted earth, olive and tobacco notes backed by a core of currant fruit.
Acres owned 9.7 Cases made 4,000 Bottlings Côte-Rôtie Les Bécasses; Côte-Rôtie La Mordorée
This well-known négociant house is more often recognized for its Hermitage bottlings, but Chapoutier's two Côte-Rôtie cuvées are also consistently outstanding to classic in quality. The wines are sleek and built for cellaring.
Les Bécasses is sourced from a blend of estate and purchased fruit, the grapes sourced from a range of lieux-dits that includes Rozier, Champin and Leyat. Fruit for La Mordorée is sourced from estate-owned, 60-year-old vines in both the La Côte Blonde and La Côte Brune lieux-dits.
Acres owned 11.1 Cases made 1,665 Bottlings Côte-Rôtie; Côte-Rôtie Les Grandes Places
Owned and run by the husband-and-wife team of Gilbert Clusel and Brigitte Roch, this small domaine prides itself on using only the traditional Serine clone of Syrah for its holdings, which lie at the northern end of the appellation.
The domaine's premier parcel is in the Les Grandes Places lieu-dit, and produces the estate's flagship cuvée. The straight Côte-Rôtie bottling is sourced primarily from the La Viallière and Le Champin parcels. Both wines are vivid and aromatic, with blue and black fruits and mouthwatering minerality; Les Grandes Places is the more structured of the two.
Acres owned 14 Cases made 2,100 Bottlings Côte-Rôtie Bassenon; Côte-Rôtie Madinière; Côte-Rôtie Terres Sombres
This domaine is best known for whites from Condrieu and St.-Joseph, but its reds are not to be overlooked. The wines are among the more modern in profile, with a new oak élevage that results in toasty aromatics and velvety textures, but they retain the long, minerally finish characteristic of traditional Côte-Rôties. Yves Cuilleron is also one of the founding partners in Les Vins de Vienne.
The Bassenon cuvée comes from sandy soils in the Côte Blonde region; it contains 5 percent Viognier and is the most elegant of the three wines. Both the Terres Sombres and Madinière cuvées are sourced from vines in the northern Côte Brune area. The Terres Sombres is aged in 100 percent new oak and shows a darker, more roasted quality. The Madinière, first bottled in 2004, is aged in 50 percent new oak and is also on the darker side of the flavor spectrum.
Acres owned None Cases made 1,250 Bottlings Côte-Rôtie Seigneur de Maugiron; Côte-Rôtie La Landonne
Like M. Chapoutier, this is a Hermitage-based négociant whose Côte-Rôtie cuvées deserve attention. Winemaker Jacques Granges sources grapes from the whole appellation for the Seigneur de Maugiron cuvée, which contains some Viognier. His La Landonne cuvée, sourced from the parcel of the same name, is among the best wines in the appellation. It shows the house's telltale smoky, mocha aromatics, with voluptuous fruit and a long, mineral-driven finish. Both wines are fermented in concrete prior to being aged in barrel-50 percent new for the Seigneur de Maugiron, 100 percent new oak for La Landonne.
BENJAMIN & DAVID DUCLAUX
Acres owned 14.3 Cases made 1,665 Bottling Côte-Rôtie
This domaine is run by brothers Benjamin and David, who represent the fourth generation of their family to farm vineyards in Côte-Rôtie. The grapes are destemmed and the wine is aged for two years in oak, with a small percentage of new barrels. The wine tends to be briary in profile, with olive and tobacco notes.
Starting with the 2005 vintage (not yet released), the Côte-Rôtie will be labeled La Germine, and a new cuvée, Côte-Rôtie Maison Rouge will be added. The Maison Rouge is sourced from the same lieu-dit used by domaine Georges Vernay for its Maison Rouge bottling.
Acres owned 12.8 Cases made 2,165 Bottlings Côte-Rôtie; Côte-Rôtie Rose Pourpre
Pierre Gaillard fashions his wines in a distinctly dark, toasty style, with rich textures and muscular finishes.
The Côte-Rôtie cuvée contains 10 percent Viognier and is sourced from parcels in both the Côte Blonde and Côte Brune regions of the appellation. It sees 50 percent new oak. The Côte-Rôtie Rose Pourpre, 100 percent Syrah, comes entirely from the Côte-Rozier lieu-dit and is aged in 100 percent new oak; it's the darker and denser of the two wines. Gaillard is a founding partner of Les Vins des Vienne.
|Yves & Mathilde Gangloff|
MATHILDE & YVES GANGLOFF
Acres owned 7.4 Cases made 1,000 Bottlings Côte-Rôtie La Barbarine; Côte-Rôtie La Sereine Noire
This husband and wife sold their grapes to E. Guigal before starting out on their own in 1987. Winemaker Yves Gangloff draws on experience he gained in his seven vintages with Delas. The wines are rich, dark and smoky, with alluring aromatics and suave finishes.
The Barbarine cuvée comes from younger vines on granite-based soils in the Côte Blonde region. The Sereine Noire bottling (which includes some of the local Serine clone of Syrah) is darker and more powerful; it is sourced from the Le Mollard (granite soils/Côte Blonde region) and Côte-Rozier (schist soils/Côte Brune region) parcels.
Acres owned 19.7 Cases made 4,500 Bottlings Côte-Rôtie Champin Le Seigneur; Côte-Rôtie La Landonne; Côte-Rôtie Les Grandes Places
This domaine, founded in 1987, is based entirely on vines in the northern end of the appellation. The wines are modern in style. Gerin employs stainless steel fermentation prior to aging the wine in a mix of new and used barrels.
The Champin Le Seigneur is made from a blend of young vines in the Grandes Places and La Landonne parcels. It contains 10 percent Viognier and is typically plump, with game, iron and garrigue flavors followed by a long, smoky finish. The single-vineyard Les Grandes Places bottling sees 50 percent new oak and contains no Viognier. It offers wild berry, briar and spice flavors with solid structure and bouncy acidity. The La Landonne bottling, from older vines in the parcel, is aged in 100 percent new oak and has no Viognier. It is pure and driven, full of black fruits with impressive structure.
Acres owned 54.3 Cases made 27,200 Bottlings Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde; Côte-Rôtie Château d'Ampuis; Côte-Rôtie La Mouline; Côte-Rôtie La Turque; Côte-Rôtie La Landonne
This is the biggest and best known of all the producers in the appellation. Founded in 1946, it is currently run by the father-and-son team of Marcel and Philippe Guigal. The Guigals work their own extensive parcels, including prime lieux-dits such as La Côte Blonde, La Côte Brune, La Landonne, La Viallière and more, while also purchasing grapes from more than half of the growers in the appellation, mostly via handshake deals. E. Guigal also owns the J. Vidal-Fleury and Domaine de Bonserine wineries, which operate independently.
The distinctive house style for the reds-featuring toasty aromatics, dense but velvety structure and a dense core of fruit-is derived in part from an extended aging in new oak barrels. The workhorse Brune et Blonde cuvée is sourced from purchased and estate fruit from vineyards up and down the length of the appellation. The Château d'Ampuis bottling, first produced in 1995 and named for the historic château renovated by the Guigals, is currently sourced from six top parcels, divided evenly between the Côte Blonde and Côte Brune regions. Beginning with the 2005 vintage, the wine's the blend will include a seventh parcel, La Viallière.
Guigal's three flagships, nicknamed the "La La" wines, are among the most sought-after wines in the world. Aged for 42 months in new oak barrels before being bottled, they are distinctive, dense, massively concentrated wines that can age for two decades or more in bottle. Guigal's La Mouline, first made in 1966, comes from a single 2.5-acre site within the lieu-dit La Côte Blonde. It contains 11 percent Viognier (the vines are co-planted in the parcel) and offers the most exotic fruit and velvety texture of the three wines. La Turque, first bottled in 1985, comes from an even smaller plot of vines in the lieu-dit La Côte Brune, and includes 7 percent Viognier in the blend [also co-planted in the parcel). It is typically muscular and dark, with fig and coffee notes. La Landonne, which debuted in 1978, is sourced from a 5.6-acre parcel of vines (more than half the entire Landonne lieu-dit). It contains no Viognier and is typically the most tannic and structured of the La La's.
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