90s Northern Rhone Tasting

Tasted Wednesday, March 10, 2010 by jahlove with 626 views


I love Old World Syrah, so the Northern Rhone is definitely hallowed ground for me. This was my first time tasting the likes of Hermitage and Cote Rotie with this kind of age on them.

Flight 1 - Rhone Whites (3 Notes)

An interesting selection of Rhone whites started off the tasting. Strongly disliked the L'Oree initially, but it really won me over in the glass, and was my #3 wine of the night. Wine of the flight easily. No contest.

  • 1995 M. Chapoutier Ermitage Blanc De L'Orée 93 Points

    France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage

    Smelled oxidized at first, but with air in the glass revealed itself as an incredibly rich and complex white. Loads of baked fruit, custard, smoke, butter. Deep and long. Still has some acidity kicking. Slight heat, but still fascinating.

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  • 1998 M. Chapoutier Hermitage Blanc Chante-Alouette 90 Points

    France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage

    Nose was not all that expressive. Some tropical notes. Still very lively acidity. Some said was maderized. There was some apple juice on the finish which I associate with maderized whites, but it wasn't bothering me. I thought the wine was powerful with still formiddable structure. Had a nutty, sherry like finish.

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  • 2006 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 87 Points

    France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape

    Much too young. Very disjointed with noticable heat. Ripping acidity on the back end. I'm sure this wine is better than it showed this evening. Almost feel bad about scoring it considering the company it was in.

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Flight 2 - Cote Rotie (3 Notes)

A wonderful experience that only served to underscore my love for this appellation. I was struck by the Guigal but the Jamet absolutely stole the show and was my #2 wine of the night. Not a disappointing wine in the bunch.

Flight 3 - Hermitage (4 Notes)

An interesting collection of Hermitage wines - all within a year of each other but all in different places. The Vallouit was almost shockingly forward, the Meal was very promising but way too young, and the Delas (my favorite of the flight) was almost Barolo like in a strange way.

Flight 4 - La Chapelle Mini-Vertical (3 Notes)

Wow. Perhaps the most educational part of the evening. How can a decade old wine seem so insanely young and primary, as was the case with the 99 (note rated) and even the 97 (reluctantly rated). The one that gave the most drinking pleasure was the 95 which was my #4 wine of the night. The real treat in this mini-vertical, and not listed here, is the mystery La Chapelle. From 79, 80, or 81, this la Chapelle totally mesmorized me beyond the 93+ score that I attached to it. Maybe it was the fact that nobody, including the owner really knew what vintage it was. Unbelievable nose. You let anyone off the street smell that blind folded, there is no way they would guess that it was wine, let alone a liquid substance. It smelled like one of those pepper coated salames. It had complexity and depth without feeling heavy. Just very elegant and thought provoking. I could have spent an entire evening with just this one wine.


I was incredibly happy to be able to attend this tasting and I felt like I learned a lot about Syrah in the Northern Rhone. First, it reaffirmed why it is I love the expression of this varietal and this terroir. And tasting what can happen with these wines with proper aging only reinforces my commitment to patient cellaring. I also learned that I need a whole evening to really get to know a wine. I found it very difficult to taste this many wines, of this caliber and pedigree, in such short order.