Côte Rôtie tasting
Tasting a nice line-up of wines from this northern Rhône appellation

At Roberson Wine, www.robersonwine.com

Some people say that the vineyards of Côte Rôtie were first planted by the Greeks. Whether or not this was true, the vineyards are known to have been planted by the time of the Roman occupation of Gaul. The wine from these slopes found its way back to Rome and became well known there.

As the Roman empire collapsed, the wines disappeared off the radar, and there were few medieval records of Côte Rôtie. It is from the 18th century that mention is made of the ‘roasted slope’ (Côte Rôtie), but phylloxera hit at the end of the 19th century and in the space of two years winegrowing here was obliterated, and then slow to get going again. Many replanted in polyculture.

The first war wiped out a generation of young men (150 winegrowers were lost), and these labour-intensive slopes further suffered in the second war. By 1949 the negociant price of Côte Rôtie was similar to that of table wine, and by the end of the 1960s just 70 hectares remained planted. Fortunately, the fortunes of the appellation have revived, in no small part due to the efforts of Guigal with his famous single vineyard wines (La Mouline, first made 1966; La Turque, first made 1985; La Landonne, first made 1978). There are now 264 hectares planted, so it is still a really small appellation.

Style is an issue in Côte Rôtie: ironically, Guigal, who is credited with much of the success of the appellation in recent years, makes wines that have been criticised for being in an international style, and not the most expressive of this terroir.

Another issue is the inclusion of Viognier. Alone in the northern Rhône, Côte Rôtie is allowed to have up to 20% Viognier in it, which must be cofermented with the Syrah. I can’t imagine anyone would get close to this much Viognier, and Syrah here is capable of producing very floral wines without any at all. Too much Viognier makes the wine smell of apricots.

We tasted a range of wines here, covering different vintages and styles.

JM Gerin Champin Le Seigneur 2001 Côte Rôtie, Northern Rhône, France
Gerin is regarded to be a modernist. He took over from his father who was old school, and in the 1980s went into a joint venture with American investors, taking 5 hectares of the family holdings. He was a student of Jean Luc Colombo. This wine is quite elegant, though, albeit with some oak influence. Warm spicy nose with some hints of medicine. The palate is savoury, spicy, meaty  and has some red fruit character. Fine with some nice complexity, drinking well now. 93/100  

Rostaing Côte Rôtie La Landonne 2001 Northern Rhône, France
Rostaing married the daughter of famous producer Albert Dervieux, and is nephew of  Marius Gentaz, the legendary late producer (Gentaz-Dervieux). He took over lots of Marius’ vines in 1993. Rostaing destems 100%, except for this wine, which is made half with whole bunches. Refined and quite elegant red fruits nose with some fine, perfumed cherry fruit. The palate is fresh with savoury, grippy tannins and lovely red cherry fruit. An elegant, almost Burgundian wine, fine and expressive. 95/100

Clusel Roch Côte Rôtie 2000 Northern Rhône, France
Focused, taut, spicy nose with a hint of earthiness to the red fruits. The palate is fresh and elegant with a savoury, slightly earthy twist to the berry and cherry fruits. An expressive, understated win. Not profound but very tasty. 92/100  

Ogier Côte Rôtie 1998 Northern Rhône, France
Quite rich, sweet, dense and meaty on the nose with notes of olive and spice. Warm and ripe. Lovely presence on the palate, showing raspberry and black cherry as well as a mineral dimension. Rich but savoury at the same time. A big wine with some animal hints. 94/100  

Delas Côte Rôtie La Landonne 1998 Northern Rhône, France
Nicely fresh iodine, spice and mineral nose with fresh red fruits. Elegant and savoury. The palate has lovely freshness with some savoury, mineral, expressive notes. Open and expressive with savoury bacon notes in the background. Drinking very well now. 94/100  

Chapoutier Côte Rôtie la Mordoree 1995 Northern Rhône, France
12.8% alcohol, 100% Syrah, 65 year old vines. Slightly muted savoury nose is surprisingly closed. The palate is dense and taut with some raspberry and plum fruit. Savoury with some purity of fruit. Still linear with tannic grip. 92/100  

Jaboulet Les Jumelles Côte Rôtie 1978 Northern Rhône, France
Slightly bricking at the rim, but still cherry red. Subtly aromatic nose of earth, spice, iodine and minerals. The palate has some freshness and appealin iodine and mineral notes, as well as a bit of meatiness. Fresh, complex and slightly mineral. 93/100

Guigal Côte Rôtie La Turque 1998 Northern Rhône, France
7% Viognier, 400 cases made. Limestone/silica/schist/clay soils. Deep coloured. Dark, roasted, spicy black fruits nose is very savoury and quite intense. The palate is rich and spicy with some oak. Warm and quite mineral with nice acidity. Dense, firm, spicy, fresh and intense with meaty complexity. A big, spicy style. 93/100  

Guigal Côte Rôtie La Mouline 1998 Northern Rhône, France
11% Viognier, 400 cases. Gneiss, limestone, silica soils. Subtle roast coffee and spice edge to the fine red fruits nose with some iodine hints. Really elegant and expressive with meat, iodine and spice notes. Intense but with elegance to the cherry fruit. Superb stuff. 95/100  

Côte Rôtie La Landonne 1998 Northern Rhône, France
100% Syrah, clay limestone soils rich in iron oxide.  800 cases. Taut black cherry and plum fruit nose with some fine spicy notes. Some rich, spicy, roasted notes on the palate but also nice fruit. Some firm tannins. Iodine, spice and a bit of meatiness. Firm with some earthy notes; currently quite closed, just about carrying the oak, needs time. 94/100

See also:

The wines of Gilles Barge, Cote Rotie
An introduction to Cote Rotie
The wines of Domaine Daubree, Cote Rotie
The wines of Yves Cuilleron, Northern Rhone

Wines tasted 03/11  
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