One might assume having tasted ten Northern Rhone red wines from the same 2010 vintage and two new world 2010 Syrahs side-by-side, blind, that the Rhone wines showed as siblings while the two new world Syrahs tagged along as genetically distinct and adopted brothers. As our Boston tasting group discovered blind tasting the 2010 Northern Rhone vintage’s cool spring, hot and cold summer, small yields, and long ripening that protected acids and allowed places of origin to shine through in each wine, stylistic commonality was in short supply.
To make matters more complicated, we compared wines from various Northern Rhone appellations and added two ringers just for fun and context:
Colombier, Hermitage $60
Souhaut, Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet, (Near Hermitage) $30
Chave, Estate, St. Joseph $60
Benoit Roseau, Patagone, St Joseph $30
Garon Les Rochins, Cote Rotie $60
Garon Les Triotes, Cote Rotie $38
Perrin, Crozes Hermitage $25
Domaine des Hauts Chassis Les Galets, Crozes Hermitage $23
Texier Domaine de Pergaud Vielle Serine, CDR (near Brezeme) $35
Balthazar Chaiillot, Cornas $50
Copain Tous Ensemble, Mendocino County $23
Terlato & Chapoutier, Victoria, Australia $20
As the vintage dictated, big fleshy and fruity wines were noticeably absent. The only wine marred by overwhelming oak and vanilla was the Terlato & Chapoutier from Australia; the one wine I could actually identify blind. The Copain from California, a favorite producer whose Tous Ensemble is an entry level bottling, showed brilliantly. It was the group’s second favorite wine overall, and nobody pinned it to California under blind cover. A beautiful and gorgeous purple red color yielded a modicum of sweet oak in its stubborn aromatics that eventually produced gorgeous floral notes to accompany a lively mouthfeel and good acidity. While I wished for a bit more in the mid palate and only placed Copan in the middle of the pack of twelve wines, the group deeply appreciated this very capable and delicious Syrah; a bargain at $23.
The 2010 Colombier Hermitage, a wine of great strength and power compared to the field, was the runaway group favorite and shared a tie as one of my favorite two wines of the evening. The wine’s color was such a dense and deep purple, it actually appeared black. Barnyard and coffee aromas dominated the nose and the seamless integration of so much complexity is more than rewarding. The Colombier also had the most intense and long lasting finish of all the wines, where solid acidity balanced the wine’s volume to render it drinkable now or 30 years hence. If money is an object in your life, the 2010 Colombier will make it hard to buy Chapoutier wines from Hermitage at four times the price.
The Chave estate wine from St. Joseph finished third in group voting and in the top 1/3 of my picks. A dark wine that was the only Northern Rhone in the pack to yield bacon in a melange of truly addictive aromatics, was salty with mocha flavors and a hint of vanilla. While a truly delicious wine, a couple of us (including me) felt the second best wine of the bunch was the Perrin Crozes-Hermitage, a steal at $25. The Perrin released a bouquet of flowers on the nose that no other wine generated, with smells of lavender, mint, and coffee. It is a wine of significant complexity, always staying pretty in appearance and appeal, coating the tongue with a gorgeously sexy and manageable mouthfeel. The wine never overpowered but stayed riveting from first sniff to finishing moments. This is a wine to buy by the caseload at $25. It was a surprising top finisher in this stiff field.
The Souhaut, Roseau, and Garon Les Triotes stood together in similar stylistic difference to the other ten wines. Lighter in color, dominantly citric and acidic in quality, they all leaned towards freshness as opposed to ripeness or concentration. The Souhaut did so in unappealing style and was everyone’s least favorite wine. The Roseau received more nods of approval for its cherry flavors and aromas, with strong citrus on the nose and riveting acidity. The garnet colored Garon Les Triotes was magic in its citric and acidic profile, offering herbs and incense on the nose and super acidity challenging the sides of your tongue.
Overall, the wines provided a range of styles that might not tell you they hailed from close proximity nor the same vintage. In most cases, the wines were absolutely lovely, offering their own interpretations of elegant restraint. There are great values here at all price points and classes from the $25 Perrin to the $60 Colombier to the $23 Copain California ringer. I will be looking for 2010 Northern Rhones on restaurant lists and in my favorite wine shops.