Rhône, from North to South

   by Chris Santini


Hard to believe, but by the 1960s most of the Côte-Rôtie was abandoned to wild brush. One could earn far more money growing apricots along the Rhône than one could growing grapes onthe slopes above. What was once celebrated the world over had quietly slid into oblivion. Thankfully, a few growers weren’t fazed and carried on, earning neither fame nor fortune in return. Even the French had forgotten about Côte-Rôtie, the only remaining clients being local industrial workers who paid pennies for the privilege. Kermit and a fortunate few found their way here in the 1970s, tasted what was then largely a floral, earthy, complex, and sometimes gamey style, and had the foresight to bring it back to market. Slowly the jewel was rediscovered. Soon, though, everyone wanted to make Côte-Rôtie “great” again, which many interpreted as powerful, strong, sucker-punch wines. The old, rustic style began to fade away.

Along came Louis Barruol, with a near-fanatical obsession for the Côte, its terroirs, and its lore. Louis channels the Côte-Rôtie of yore in his vinifications, with a few seemingly simple yet essential guidelines: select grapes from the greatest terroirs (there is indeed a hierarchy, much like in Burgundy, although not codified here), use only Petite Serine (an older, heirloom type of Syrah), whole-cluster bunches (the stems are essential), short macerations, and indigenous yeasts. The result here has some meaty “roast” and concentration (which its name implies) and a rustic side (the stems?), all within a soft velvet glove.

$79.00 per bottle $853.20 per case


Speaking of great terroirs… Piedlong, the highest parcel of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, may be the best there is for Grenache. This cuvée is really a showcase for Grenache at its finest: while there’s plenty of the brawn and masculinity one would expect, with this terroir it’s “on the rocks,” so to speak, cool, drinkable, bright, and lively. There’s also a splash of Mourvèdre in there, from the neighboring Pignan parcel, which contributes what I’ve heard referred to as the “venison touch.”

$58.00 per bottle $626.40 per case