Wine Talk

Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz

Fine French Syrah from the Rhône Valley

Posted by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 15, 2008.

Frances’ Rhône Valley is usually referred to as a single entity but in the wine world there are such distinct differences between the north, with it’s great Syrah based wines, and the South with it’s Grenache dominated blends that it is impossible to have a discussion without making a distinction between the two.

The famous names of the North, Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage, Crozes Hermitage, Cornas, and increasingly, St. Joseph represent some of the finest, most individualistic Syrah based wines produced. While Syrah, aka Shiraz, often produces brilliant wines, nowhere are they finer than on these hills and slopes that follow the Rhône River. These protected microclimates capture the warming rays of the sun and the heat of the blowing Mistral to produce profound and dramatic wine from perfectly ripe Syrah.

St. Joseph, emerging from the shadows.

While lowly St. Joseph has long trailed behind the famous slopes of Hermitage and Cornas, the heart of the appellation that lies between these two hills produces exceptional wines that are great values. In a recent blind tasting the 2006 Dom du Tunnel stood out with its luxurious fruit, fine depth and classic St. Joseph character. At $35 it impressed us all.

Crozes-Hermitage, earns it’s due.
Sitting directly across the river from St. Joseph and surrounding the hill of Hermitage is the fine appellation of Crozes-Hermitage. The 2005 JL Chave Crozes Hermitage Silene was an excellent example of this appellation and a steal at the price. It’s a great way to experience the wines of one of the greatest winemakers in the Rhone, and indeed in the world. On the other hand the 2005 Jaboulet “Thalabert” Crozes Hermitage, which comes from a large producer while a bit pricy was the star of our tasting. Deep. Layered and complex it is a wine to seek out!

Syrah for the Cellar!
One thing that only experience can give you is an understanding of the potential of a wine. While some of the more expensive wines faired poorly in our tasting that doesn’t mean they should be ignored! These are wines intended for laying down, and thus often underwhelm in their youth, but they should be given a chance to bloom in the cellar. The 2005 Dom du Tunnel Cornas was very refined for Cornas but exhibited classic meaty fruit and great density, it will benefit from a few years in the cellar. The 2005 J Champet Cote Rôtie La Vialliere on the other hand demands time in the cellar. While it is crazy funky and even disjointed today it should absolutely blossom with age revealing the fine, elegant and complex that lies at its core!

Other reccommended wines;

Philippe Faury St. Joseph 2005 -
M. Chapoutier St. Joseph Les Granits 2005
Domaine Jamet Côte-Rôtie 2004
Franck Balthazar Cornas Chaillot 2005


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