Wine Talk

Snooth User: Richard Foxall

Did I mention that Northern Rhones have gotten expensive?

Posted by Richard Foxall, Jan 22, 2015.

No mystery I love Syrah and got turned onto it some years ago by a N. Rhone that I had at a restaurant in Sonoma.  But here it goes again, latest estimates for the auction price at HartDavisHart:

1983 Côte Rôtie, Côte Brune, Cuvée Reservée, Marius Gentaz-Dervieux (12 bs) $15000-22000

Now I grant you that's not exactly DRC or Latour level pricing yet, but they are estimating between $1250 and nearly $2000 a bottle.  And HDH often touts (to sellers) that every lot sells out and a third of lots sell for over the estimate.  I expect that there is some inflation here because Gentaz retired in '93 and died a few years ago.  Kind of like owning a Ferrari from when Enzo was making them, I suppose. 

So, yeah, it's exceptional, but look at what has happened in Burgundy, the utter hysteria of it.  And there's less suitable land in the Northern Rhone than Burgundy, so it's not going to get cheaper if the land gets bid up.  (Some AOCs have already expanded past the prime land, so consider the old boundaries the premier and grand crus--then maybe it's more comparable, but Crozes and St. Joseph have to be factored out of any notion of GC/PC.)

Happily, I just bought a case of the 2013 Halcon Alturas, and I can start drinking the older ones soon.  Vive La Californie!


Reply by outthere, Jan 22, 2015.

Welcome back!

Reply by GregT, Jan 22, 2015.

St Joe is one of the most underrated regions IMO. Crozes too actually - I have some from 1990 that are just excellent.

But yeah, the prices are getting stupid. I don't  think it will become Burgundy though. Burgundy is kind of a reaction to Bordeaux, whereas Hermitage used to be put INTO Bordeaux.

So people who objected to the large corporate ownership of the huge Bordeaux estates, and who objected to Parker for whatever emotional or philosophical reason, looked at Burgundy where there were all these little plots operated by peasants making crappy wine and their hearts went all a-flutter. The Brits could credibly posit something as the anti-Parker/corporate approach and perhaps regain some influence as arbiters of taste. Fast forward twenty-five years and Burgundy is expensive as hell, people who don't know any better tout it as some almost spiritual experience, and they've turned their backs on Bordeaux, which basically didn't pay them any mind anyway.

So places in the north and south Rhone, Piedmont, Tuscany, parts of Spain and elsewhere may become increasingly expensive, but I don't think any of them will ever be another Burgundy, any more than any place will ever be another Bordeaux. There's no "need" for them as the counterweight to anything - they'll just raise or lower prices as they need to. But I do believe that so long as people are willing to "invest" in wine, there's going to be upward price pressure on places that have limited abilities to increase production.

Reply by dmcker, Jan 23, 2015.

Greg, it is a spiritual experience. You just aren't read in yet...

Though I agree with you on St. Jo.

Reply by JonDerry, Jan 23, 2015.

Burgundy is Bordeaux demand x 2 with 1/4 of the production, mas o menos.

Everything's getting expensive Fox!

Gotta save those pennies amid all the spending.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jan 23, 2015.

St. Joseph can be incredibly tasty, and it can pair well with some things that weightier N. Rhones don't, but I think it will never have a ton of cachet because the area is larger and has expanded into some dicey vineyard land.  I also don't think of it as a wine that is going to gain a lot with age, but I'm open to being converted.  C-H is also really variable.  I think it can be made well in a modern style, but, to my taste, at the reasonably priced end of the scale, it's pretty variable and not an outstanding deal.  My two cents there. 

Loving the rants about Burgundy.  Although I enjoy Pinot far more than GregT does, I do agree that the Burgundy hype is hard to understand.  I do find it interesting that the winery with the supposedly greatest terroir in all the region uses 100% new oak on all reds. 

Reply by zufrieden, Jan 23, 2015.

But comrades, the northern Rhone has always been very good as many of you intimate; however, as people discover "undiscovered" wines (read cheaper, unpronounceable, appellations that evoke the Crisis of the 3rd Century in Rome - or perhaps, the spread of certain heresies of the early Mother Church, or something more "exotic" like the Mistral) these credit-worthy regions will, well, get rather dear.

It may not be worth much, but I agree with the idea that some of the second level names (St. Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage) are still good value and have some fine, toothsome juice to offer.

Personally, I love Cote-Rotie, so have been hit hard by price (fortunately there are equally good Washington State and British Columbia alternatives to this delectable style).  As for Burgundy, well, that is all about Pinot Noir.  You can blame a certain 15th Century Duke for some of the excesses there - where other grape varieties might have been better suited to certain sub-regions of this rather cool growing area.  However, though I have no ties to the region at the ground level it seems a bit of a stretch that "peasantry" rule these small holdings - there is just too much lucre at stake.  Over-rated (or at least over-priced from the standpoint of hedonic value)?  Well, of course - but that is true of Bordeaux and many of the other regions mentioned above.

My recommendation?  Head south, young person.  The Southern Rhone - with the possible exception of Chateauneuf-de-Pape - remains a bargain.




Reply by duncan 906, Jan 23, 2015.

Richard  I also like syrah and do not want to make you jealous but I have had four northern Rhones this year [2015] so far;

Chateau du Rozay Condrieu 1992

Grand Vin des Cotes du Rhone Cornas Jean Lionnet2004

M.Chapoutier Saint Joseph Deschants 2006

Cote-Rotie Lucette and Martin Daubree Domaine Corps de Loup 2000

I was fortunate to get them from the auction site so they were not that expensive.Of the three syrah the Cote-Rotie was probably the best,though there was not a lot in it. Syrah is made in France in areas other than northern Rhone and these tend to be less expensive.A good example that I had last year is;

Chateau Unang'La Gardy' Ventoux 2007  which is a lovely wine

In my cupboard I have a bottle of

Gres Saint Paul 'Syrhus'2003 from the Coteaux du Languedoc which I have yet to drink but when I do I shall write up a review


If you want value for money French wines then the areas to look at are the right bank in Bordeaux [apart from some Saint Emilions and Pomerols ],the Southern Rhone [apart from Chateauneuf] and Languedoc/south-west There are also good value for money wines to be had in the Loire valley and in Beaujolais.Not all Burgundies are horrendously expensive.The Cotes de Beaune is cheaper,as a rule, than the Cotes de Nuits and the Cotes de Chalonaise and Cotes de Maconais cheaper still.There are also some nice reds at good value prices in the Chablis region.Prices are of course relative.The auction site is usually cheaper than a shop and shops in France are cheaper than those in the UK [and probably the US]

Reply by JonDerry, Jan 23, 2015.

I liked your post Zuf until you proposed I start drinking Southern Rhone instead of red Burgundy, yikes!

Love my red burgs, and trust me, I'm not making this up!

Do need to buy more good N. Rhone though. Champagne, as noted elsewhere is also starting to pull at me a bit more than it used to.

Good point about DRC? Fox. I remember James Hall telling us at the Pinot Noir Throwdown that DRC owns their own forests in the best part of France for growing oak? Made so much sense about the intruige of DRC.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jan 25, 2015.

Zuf, I do drink S. Rhones, had a CdP this week that was comparatively reasonable--2010 Domaine La Roquete.  Third vintage of the wine I've had.  It was fine, but not at the level of the N. Rhones that I like. 

Dunc, I can find St. Jo and Croze and they are fine, but not, generally, as breathtaking. 

That said, last night we opened the second of those '07 Alain Voge Vielles Vignes Cornas (I brought one to OT's Syrah shindig and it turned out to be corked) as well as the '07 Lagier-Meredith that JD gave me the first time he, OT and I had dinner together (which was also the first time I met OT).  Both decanted for a couple hours, then tasted blind.  Of the six drinkers, four preferred the L-M, which my wife called as the Cali wine.  I was also in that group.  I had tasted earlier to make sure nothing was corked, so I was able to tell by taste which was which even after they were blinded.  My preference was for the L-M as well--but it seemed more old-world.  It was more chiseled, with crunchy acids and some good rocky minerality, like licking quartz.  I thought it was fresher tasting.  Both were savory, although those notes actually ran a little toward soy sauce vs. game.  As the evening went on, they converged on each other.  Surprising that the Cornas was still so fresh with so much air, since it had seemed flatter initially.  Either bottle probably has another 7-12 years of life, if you make me predict. 

I've got a stash of Cornas from the Durand brothers that I hope will keep me satisfied, along with a handful of Guigal Brune et Blond, so I will survive.  And now that I've got go-to California Syrah makers (thanks, OT, as always), I just have to be able to taste N. Rhone often enough to keep the reference point accurate.

Reply by dmcker, Jan 25, 2015.

That flatter(closeder)-at-first phenomenon is something common across most every French region. That's why I'm always taken aback when people open a French bottle--whether from the Rhone or Burgundy or Bordeaux or anywhere else--taste it within a few minutes, talk about how basically boring it is and then gravitate towards the CA wines and assign the French to their TN scrapheap. And why I don't tend to lend much credence to their judgments when they don't a) let the bottle breath after opening, and b) let the wine age to even a minimal extent before opening it in the first place.

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