Oddly, the wines of the Rhône valley do not find it as easy to access the limelight as they did a few years ago. We say oddly because there has been a very good run of vintages and frankly, in comparison to other lauded French regions, prices are still very fair if you know where to look. The Northern Rhône, in particular, can provide a great hunting ground for value if you venture away from the handful of illustrious estates whose status and prices are established on a higher plane. Here we offer 2015 Côte-Rôtie, Giroflarie, Domaine Jasmin at £330 per 12 bottle case in bond. Simon's comments, below.
Côte-Rôtie is home to many skilled growers, though the appellation covers little over 200 hectares (approximately 500 acres). The quality of wines produced here, on the western bank of the Rhône, is remarkably high, particularly in outstanding vintages like 2015. According to John Livingstone-Learmonth (Decanter Magazine), who has been tasting and writing about the wines of the Rhône for decades, it is ‘one of the best years of the 20th century’, although I think he means the 21st century...or perhaps even both! Marcel Guigal, perhaps one of the most famous producers in the Northern Rhône, considered the vintage to be perfect; winter topped up the water table and the summer was hot and dry with cool nights retaining freshness.
The style of 2015 in Côte-Rôtie is more generous than usual, with a lush, ripe core of fruit; Syrah certainly excelled in the near ideal conditions provided by the vintage. As Jancis Robinson commented in her review of the vintage, entitled ‘2015 North Rhône red – best in 55 years?’, ‘What I found especially thrilling when tasting my way through the 2015 northern Rhônes was that it is not necessary to pay top dollar in order to experience 2015's sumptuous combination of ripeness and precision.’
And so, what is our pick? The 2015 Côte-Rôtie, ‘Giroflarie’ from Domaine Jasmin which is, in short, a knock-out. This estate was founded by Robert Jasmin in the early 20th century and quickly became synonymous with wonderfully traditional Côte-Rôtie. Now run by Robert's son, Patrick, this 5.3-hectare domaine extends over eight different parcels to the south of the appellation, with vines approaching 60 years of age in parts. Interestingly, the vineyards are planted with 95% Syrah as well as 5% Viognier, a white variety which was traditionally employed to alleviate tannins and aid aromatics. Both varieties are co-planted, meaning they are intermixed in the vineyard, as well as harvested and fermented together. To limit the impact of oak, the wine is aged in barrels ranging from 228-litre barriques up to 600-litre demi-muids and the percentage of new oak employed each year is kept to a modest 25%.
Anyone who recalls my keen interest in the Rhône from many years back (and has hopefully enjoyed some of those recommendations), should pay close attention to my comments below… I loved the style of this wine. I don’t know how Domaine Jasmin has managed it, but they don’t seem to be reviewed by the usual suspects in each and every vintage, although they enjoy a healthy profile and respect for their wines. This is good news for you and me, as the absence of point scores assists in keeping prices favourable.
2015 Côte-Rôtie, Giroflarie, Domaine Jasmin
£330 per 12 bottle case in bond
Bright, vibrant purple in the glass with such an easy ripeness on the nose with deep juicy dark berry fruits to the fore, with a hint of violet and spice. This is so pure, with a cushioned feel to the palate; all elegance and softly ripe spiced raspberry and loganberry fruit. Frankly, this is impossible to resist. The most powerful? No, but it shows glorious refinement, flowing and persistent with layer upon layer of sumptuous berry fruit. Critics tend to praise power above all else in their reviews, and perhaps this is why Jasmin is slightly off the radar. This is such a harmonious young wine that it could be enjoyed early or given 10 years to evolve in bottle. A truly beautiful expression of Côte-Rôtie. (SL) 2018-2028.
NB. For anyone familiar with Jasmin’s wines ‘Giroflarie’ is the new name, introduced in the 2015 for his main Côte-Rôtie, which formerly had no cuvée name.