I’ve long been a fan of wines from the Northern Rhone, the elegance, depth and complexity you get from the Syrah, and the richness and power of the Viognier you get from villages such as Condrieu are difficult to find anywhere else in the world, and there aren’t many better producers than Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aine. The domaine itself, dates as far back as 1834 when Antoine Jaboulet set up his business in Tain l’Hermitage, with an idea and passion of producing great wines, over the years as the domaine was passed through the family, they added parcels from across the region including in the appellations of Saint-Joseph, Cornas and Saint-Peray.
In 2006, the domaine was purchased by the Frey family, who were already the owners of Chateau La Lagune in Bordeaux, and Caroline, the eldest daughter in the family and who had gained her degree in Oenology from Bordeaux took over the winemaking. Since 2006 they have earned Sustainable Farming status and are slowly working towards there biodynamic certification.
We’ve been fortunate enough to have had the guys from Paul Jaboulet host one of our Supper Clubs here at The Wine Twit, and while their wines are stunning, when you pair them with food they just get better and better. This week I had the opportunity to meet Caroline Frey and taste through their 2016 Northern Rhone reds, which I have to say, even though they haven’t been bottled yet and are still in their infancy, they were amazing and are only going to get better and better.
All of these wines are produced from Syrah and are all vinified using the same processes, yet you still get a real sense of individuality from each wine. The Crozes Hermitage ‘Domaine de Thalabert’ had lovely dark fruit and a beautiful fine tannic structure, the ‘Domaine de Roure’ while it had similarities was a little bit richer with the fruit, a minerality not found in the ‘Thalabert’ and finer tannins. The Saint-Joseph was big and powerful with plenty of fine tannins that gave the wine a real grip to it, where as the Cote-Rotie was far more elegant with the fruit and the tannins were so fine and silky, it was hard to believe it was so young, but it still had plenty to it to allow it to age. We then moved on to the Cornas, which was a big dark fruited wine with a tannic structure more akin to the Saint-Joseph but more depth all around. Finally we came to the two jewel’s in the crown, the ‘La Chapelle’ Hermitage and the Hermitage ‘La Maison Bleue’, this is only the second vintage of this particular cru and shows big rich dark fruit, with spice and toasty characters and a velvety tannic structure to it, while the ‘La Chapelle’ has more elegance and integration than the ‘La Maison Bleue’ while keeping a similar flavour profile.
I have to say, the 2016 vintage has been stunning for the Northern Rhone, and by looking at what the critics have been scoring these wines I’m not alone in thinking this. Throughout the tasting the thing that struck me the most, was despite their youthfulness the tannic structure was so fine and silky, but there was still plenty of them. For me this will help the wines to be more approachable in their youth and give them the ability to age, they really are some stunning wines, and while the likes of Bordeaux and Burgundy get ever more expensive, the Rhone still shows value for money.