Côte Rôtie, one of my great passions

I often get asked the impossible question. What is your favourite wine?

For a wine professional, you can’t really afford to have a favourite. Let’s face it, the world of wine is full of amazing discoveries at every turn. To single out one region, or one style, seems absurd.

But you have to answer this question when you are asked it, and invariably my answer is Côte Rôtie. When northern Rhone Syrah is good, it has few peers. It is elegant, expressive, complex and reminiscent of great Burgundy.

Of course, I love great Burgundy. When Burgundy is great, it is peerless. But to tell someone I love Burgundy above all others suggests I lack imagination. Côte Rôtie is the left-field answer, and when it is great, it is just about a match for top-flight Burgundy.

The problem with the northern Rhone is that so many of the best terroirs are in the hands of people doing silly things with them. You have to hunt around to find truly authentic expressions of these amazing sites. Eric Asimov of the New York Times wrote eloquently about this recently here.

For me, it is a tragedy when producers with vineyards in this special appellation fail to make wines that could only have come from here. Fortunately the terroir is so good that even idiots who don’t know what they are doing often make wines that are compelling, despite their best efforts.

I have just written up a tasting of Côte Rôtie. It’s a region I would love to revisit soon, and I just wish it was a little larger (currently 260 hectares) so there were more of these wines to go round.

2 comments to Côte Rôtie, one of my great passions

  • Tim Carlisle

    We were debating something similar trying to come up with varieties that when presented in Varietal form were capable of exceeding all others and affecting you on an almost ephemeral level. We came up with just three, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Nebbiolo. (with an honourable mention for Sangiovese).

    But I’d be interested in why you go for Cote Rotie (which you seem to blog about a lot (relatively) over and above Hermitage, and to a lesser extent Cornas.

  • Andrew Halliwell

    “Fortunately the terroir is so good that even idiots who don’t know what they are doing often make wines that are compelling, despite their best efforts.”

    …seems a bit harsh, Jamie. I’m guessing you feel they swamp their wines with new oak. What else are these idiots doing / or not doing to make these compelling wines? What would you do better, especially if you had made a multi-million euro investment and were trying to make a go of it?

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