Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Rhône 2013 En Primeur

“I suspect that many wine lovers will find the 2013s more to their taste than other recent vintages”
- Jancis Robinson MW, The Financial Times

You certainly couldn’t describe 2013 as a typical vintage in the Rhône Valley but the unusual conditions have resulted in some charming wines that I know many of you will really enjoy. Buying 2013 En Primeur (buying wines whilst still abroad, paying duty and VAT on arrival into the country) means you can get preferential prices and secure your share of limited parcels. It’s a subtle, elegant vintage and one that we are really excited about because it is unlike any vintage we have tasted in recent years:

• You’ll see less Grenache and more Syrah and Mourvèdre – Grenache suffered most in the wet spring (see vintage report overleaf) but Syrah and Mourvèdre excelled. The result is that the Southern Rhône blends include less Grenache than normal and more of the ‘other’ Rhône grapes, which is no bad thing.

• Expect fresher wines with lower alcohols – For those of you who find the big 15 or 16% Rhône reds of recent years a little overpowering, you’ll be pleased to see that this year they’re coming in closer to 13%. Vincent Avril at Clos des Papes describes his wines as ‘Burgundian’ in style and we understand the comparison given the freshness and elegance of the wines yet with lovely cores of fruit.

• Low yields have given the wines good concentration, particularly in the Northern Rhône – The quality of Syrah in the Northern Rhône is excellent and there is plenty for Northern Rhône lovers to savour. Thanks to an Indian summer, the Syrah ripened to perfection and although yields were significantly down, the smaller berries and lower yields have led to intensely expressive, high quality wines.

• Owing to cooler temperatures, the whites are among the best ever – Whites from both the North and South are superb and well worth buying.

You can view our full offering from the 2013 vintage here:

Rhône 2013 Vintage Overview

After a long winter, spring was cold and wet which delayed flowering and resulted in poor fruit set, meaning low yields were inevitable from the outset. Grenache is a grape particularly susceptible to coulure (where the grapes fail to develop after flowering due to poor weather) and as a result, Grenache yields were down on average by 30%. As a result, you’ll see grapes like Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Cinsault playing a much greater role in the wines but for me, this is to their advantage. As much as I enjoy 100% Grenache wines, the 2013s offer something different and you’ll notice the peppery spice of Syrah, the spicy notes of Carignan and fruity, garrigue-scented Mourvèdre.

After a cool start to summer, hailstorms arrived in July but fortunately didn’t affect vineyards anywhere near as much as further north in Burgundy. August and September were beautifully warm and dry and the vineyards benefited greatly from an Indian summer, allowing the grapes to stay on the vines to ripen to optimum maturity. October rain presented a few problems but those who got their grapes in on time are very happy with the results.

Côtes du Rhône

Côtes du Rhône reds, whites and rosés come from 171 different communes across the Rhône Valley but mainly in the South. The reds tend to be Grenache-based blends and due to the challenging weather and diminished quantities of Grenache, Côtes du Rhône reds are of variable quality this year. We’ve selected very carefully and the best at this level come from Domaine Fond Crozes and the inimitable Chateau de Beaucastel.

Côtes du Rhône Villages

Domaine de Mourchon is one of our favourite Rhône estates that once upon
a time was a well-kept secret among Averys customers but these  days
is also a favourite with the likes of Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker!
Côtes du Rhône Villages applies to 95 villages with stricter growing and winemaking legislation than Côtes du Rhône. Of far more interest, however, are the best 18 villages that are allowed to append their name to the term Côtes du Rhône Villages. These include Cairanne, Visan, Puymeras, Séguret, Saint-Gervais, Valréas, Roaix, Sablet, Rochegude, Chusclan, Rousset-les-Vignes, Saint-Pantaléon-les-Vignes, Saint-Maurice-sur-Eygues, Bagnols-sur-Ceze, Laudun, Massif d’Uchaux, Plan de Dieu and Signargues. The best producers in these villages produce some of the best value wines in all of France.

The Southern Rhône Crus

The Perrin family own Château de Beaucastel in
Châteauneuf-du-Pape but also own vineyards in
Cairanne, Vacqueyras, Rasteau, Vinsobres and Gigondas
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is famous for its reds made up of up to 13 different grape varieties. In reality, very few producers use all 13 and many producers rely heavily on Grenache. Those that don’t rely on Grenache fared much better in 2013, most notably Château de Beaucastel, famous for its use of all 13 varieties and Clos des Papes, who increasingly use a significant proportion of Mourvèdre. Domaine de Sénéchaux, owned by the Cazes family, is our best value pick from Châteauneuf.

Gigondas wines tend to be concentrated, rich and refined and this year, there’s
a real elegance to the two we’ve selected from Famille Perrin. Vacqueyras lies next to Gigondas but the wines can be quite different in style. ‘Les Christins’ from Famille Perrin is a rich, opulent example from the 2013 vintage.

Vinsobres is the most northerly cru in the Southern Rhône with some of the highest altitude vineyards. Syrah performs well here and the two wines from Famille Perrin prove that 2013 was a successful vintage in Vinsobres.

Lirac is the most southernmost cru for red wines in the Rhône and one of the least well-known. Aromatic and fresh yet rich and structured, the wines are worth seeking out – Domaine Coudoulis is a longstanding favourite with Averys customers.

Beaumes de Venise has long been associated with the famous dessert wine, Muscat de Beaumes de Venise but its robust reds deserve equal attention. Tavel is the most southernmost cru and is reserved solely for rosé wines. 

Rasteau was traditionally known for its Vin Doux Naturels but its reds were elevated to cru status in
2010 owing to their consistent high quality. Grenache dominant, the wines are rich, rounded and full-bodied.

The Northern Rhône Crus

Michel Chapoutier is delighted with his
2013s which he feels express the origins
of the wine and show perfect balance.
Condrieu and Château Grillet are both home to just one grape variety – Viognier. The whites of the Northern Rhône performed well in 2013 owing to the cool temperatures giving wines with brisk, fresh acidities.

Côte-Rôtie is the most northerly cru in the Rhône Valley and renowned for its extremely steep hillside vineyards. This prestigious cru is made from Syrah blended with just a small proportion of Viognier to add aromatic complexity. Côte Rôtie benefited this year from being slightly earlier ripening than Hermitage or Crozes-Hermitage and as a result, most grapes were picked before the October rains.

Hermitage is a single hill with an iconic reputation. Reds are made from Syrah (with up to 15% Marsanne and Roussanne allowed), while the whites are made from Marsanne and Roussanne. We have just one red from this sought-after cru in 2013 – the magnificent L’Ermite from Chapoutier. But Hermitage fans should be quick to buy the whites in 2013 which are some of the finest ever made. 

Crozes-Hermitage surrounds the famous hill of Hermitage and is the largest cru in the Northern
Rhône. The wines can vary considerably in style but when good are a softer, fruitier and more forward version of Hermitage itself.

Saint-Joseph is a predominantly red wine cru (Syrah) but also makes attractive whites (Marsanne and Roussanne) and is arguably the best value appellation in the Northern Rhône.

Cornas is the first red to be harvested in the Northern Rhône which played to its advantage in 2013, an exceptionally late vintage, as it meant producers picked grapes before October rains. In fact, this enclave seemed to suffer few of the extreme weather conditions of the rest of the Rhône and consequently, the wines are impressive.

Saint-Péray is made from two grape varieties – Marsanne and Roussanne. Over a third of production is sparkling wine, with the rest producing aromatic, dry whites.

We have tasted extensively this year to bring you the best selection possible and have only included wines that reach our high quality standards. This is a year to use your wine merchant to help select wines for you and If you want more advice, simply call us on 03330 148 208 or visit

Matthew Hemming MW

No comments:

Post a Comment