2011 Côte-Rôtie, Les Grandes Places, Domaine Jean-Michel Gerin
Jeb Dunnuck - 30/12/2013
About this WINE
Domaine Jean-Michel Gerin
Farming an outstanding plot of 10 hectares in Côte-Rôtie and another of a similar size (and quality) in Condrieu, Jean-Michel Gerin is one of the acknowledged masters of the region, imbuing Syrah with a wonderful purity and bringing out the full richness of Viognier. He is not only one of the great characters, but also one of the greatest winemakers in the Northern Rhône.
Gerin's winemaking methods aim for fragrance and sumptuous texture, with the wines' substance based on fruit rather than tannic mass. He employs copious use of wood, yet his wines seem to integrate it in a remarkable way, a model for subtly oaked fruit purity.
In addition to his appellation sites, he also makes excellent and well-priced Vins de Pays, and, to demonstrate both his passion and his pioneering spirit, he also has a vineyard in Priorat, a highly successful joint venture with Laurent Combier of Crozes-Hermitage.
Côte-Rôtie is one of the most famous of the northern Rhône appellations, with some single vineyard cuvées now selling for the same prices as First Growth Bordeaux. It is the northernmost outpost of the Syrah grape.Côte-Rôtie translates as ‘roasted hillside’, as the south-facing slopes are exposed to the maximum-possible sunlight. Vines have been planted here since Roman times, although the appellation was only created in 1940. Today it covers 500 hectares, with 276 hectares of vineyards stretched across eight kilometres.
Phylloxera devastated vineyards in the late 1800s and Côte-Rôtie’s fortunes remained in the doldrums for another century. After the War, a farmer would receive double the price for a kilo of apricots as for a kilo of grapes, hence vineyards were grubbed up and wine production became increasingly smaller.
It has only really been recognised as a top-quality wine-producing area since the 1970s, with Guigal being the main impetus behind its revival. The two best slopes, Côte Brune and Côte Blonde, rise steeply behind Ampuis and overlook the river. The Côte Brune wines are much firmer and more masculine (the soils are clay and ironstone), whereas the Côte Blonde makes wines with more finesse and elegance due to its light, sandy-limestone soil. Both the Côte Brune and Côte Blonde vineyards rise to 1,000 feet, with a gradient of 30 to 50 degrees.
The wines are made from the Syrah grape, however up to 20 percent of Viogner can be used in the blend, adding finesse, elegance and floral characteristics to the wine. Viognier ripens more quickly than Syrah and the appellation rules stipulate that the grapes must be added to the fermentation – rather than blended later. The best Côte-Rôtie are very deep in colour, tannic and spicy, and need 10 years to evolve and develop.
There are nearly 60 official vineyards (lieux-dits); the best-known are: La Mouline, La Chatillonne (Vidal-Fleury, owned by Guigal) and La Garde (Rostaing) in Côte Blonde; La Viallière, (Rostaing), La Landonne (Guigal, Rostaing) and La Turque (Guigal) in Côte Brune.
Styles vary from heavily-extracted tannic wines which need many years to soften through to lighter, supple and less-structured wines which do not require extended bottle ageing. The most famous wines of Côte-Rôtie are Guigal’s three single-vineyard cuvées: La Mouline, La Turque and La Landonne. These are aged in new wood for 48 months, and demand for them amongst connoisseurs and collectors is significant, leading to prices sometimes comparable to Bordeaux First Growths.
Recommended producers: Guigal, Gerrin, Rostaing, Ogier, Burgaud
Best vintages: 2006, 2005, 2004, 2001, 1999, 1991, 1990, 1985
A noble black grape variety grown particularly in the Northern Rhône where it produces the great red wines of Hermitage, Cote Rôtie and Cornas, and in Australia where it produces wines of startling depth and intensity. Reasonably low yields are a crucial factor for quality as is picking at optimum ripeness. Its heartland, Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, consists of 270 hectares of steeply terraced vineyards producing wines that brim with pepper, spices, tar and black treacle when young. After 5-10 years they become smooth and velvety with pronounced fruit characteristics of damsons, raspberries, blackcurrants and loganberries.
It is now grown extensively in the Southern Rhône where it is blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre to produce the great red wines of Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas amongst others. Its spiritual home in Australia is the Barossa Valley, where there are plantings dating as far back as 1860. Australian Shiraz tends to be sweeter than its Northern Rhône counterpart and the best examples are redolent of new leather, dark chocolate, liquorice, and prunes and display a blackcurrant lusciousness.
South African producers such as Eben Sadie are now producing world- class Shiraz wines that represent astonishing value for money.
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A fascinating vertical tasting of this cuvée in our cellars last year underlined its great ageing potential. From steep schistous slopes adjacent to Landonne in the northern sector, this has the highest percentage of new barrique of all the wines – just over 75% in 2011 – and is suitably powerful. Brooding blackberry, cassis, smoky and meaty notes mix with hints of graphite and saddle leather.
Simon Field MW, BBR Buyer
Try as one might, it is impossible not to like Jean-Michel Gerin. In the early days I was so persistent going up to him every year at Ampuis, requesting UK exclusivity, that his dead-pan ‘non’ became something of an in-joke. When ‘non’ turned to ‘oui’, five or six years ago, a very successful partnership was initiated. His sons Mickael and Alexei are now a key part of the operation. 2011 was phenolically mature by the end of the first week of September, so they picked relatively early, and everyone is very pleased with the results.
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