2016 Côte-Rôtie, Côte Blonde, Domaine René Rostaing, Rhône
Joe Czerwinski - 31/10/2018
About this WINE
Domaine Rene Rostaing
Pierre Rostaing is now firmly in charge of this domaine and running it very successfully, working by hand and mostly organically. His holdings in Côte-Rôtie now count 30 parcels across 11 hectares. In the winery, Pierre continues to use predominantly whole-bunch fermentation and the wines are matured in both demi-muids and Burgundy barrels. He keeps the barrels for ten years, electing to use only 10-15% new oak on average. This perfectly complements the domaine’s style, which beautifully showcases the terroir and makes for extremely dark, rich and long-lived wines.
Rostaing’s parcels saw significant damage this year in the April frost with the worst being up to 80% loss on his La Viaillère plot. As such, he was not able to vinify this separately in 2021 but the benefit is that the fruit has, once again, gone into his brilliant Ampodium cuvée. Pierre talks about how 2021 is more like a vintage of twenty years ago and when you taste wines like ʼ21 Ampodium with its fine, crunchy fruit, black pepper freshness and only 12% alcohol, you can see why. With its restraint, purity and freshness, this is the style of Syrah that we fell in love with when we first discovered Côte-Rôtie.
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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The 2016 Cote Rotie La Cote Blonde (from the lieu-dit of the same namenot a blend of sites) is a terrific effort. It blends the structure of la Viallire with the elegance of la Landonne, making it a truly complete and compelling bottle. Some mocha, black olive and meaty notes lend it a savory cast, while the palate is creamy and concentrated, firm but silky. It's medium to full-bodied, with a fine, licorice-tinged finish that lingers a good long time. It should drink well for 20+ years.
Joe Czerwinski - 31/10/2018
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