Rhône producers are crowing about their 2019s vintage, another vintage where the southern swath of the valley was drenched in sun and heat through the summer. The result is a set of bottlings marked by vivid fruit flavors and lush textures that allow the wines to glide. Maby will age on a fairly rapid (yet delicious) track, while the best examples have well-integrated grip for more serious cellaring.
Here’s a crop of late-release 2019s and a 2020 that missed my annual tasting report on the region (out now in Wine Spectator’s Feb. 28, 2022 issue), but can be explored here in our Insider Weekly. There are impressive wines from lesser-known domaines like Tour St.-Michel, led by vigneron Mireille Porte, as well as Raymond Usseglio, now under the hand of Stéphane Usseglio. There are also wines from more prominent names like Chapoutier, Giraud and Vieux Télégraphe. The latter two also account for two of this week’s Hot Wines: Giraud’s old-vine, Grenache-only cuvée and a spectacular 2020 white from the brothers Brunier.
This edition comes in just in time for the depths of winter, so cue the roasted game birds, mild mushrooms and truffles, and open up one of these delicious Rhône wines. — James Molesworth
DOMAINE DU VIEUX TELEGRAPHE – CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE LA CRAU 2019
93 points | $105 | 2,841 cases imported | Red
Silky and refined, with focused cherry puree, plum, reduction and raspberry coulis notes racing through, infused subtly with rose petal, warm stone and lavender hints. Features nice perfume through the finish. Grenache, Mouvèdre, Syrah and Cinsault. Drink now through 2036. — J.M.
DOMAINE DU VIEUX TELEGRAPHE – CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE WHITE LA CRAU 2020
95 points | $87 | 348 cases imported | White
Well-built, with a steady intensity to the waves of white peach, star fruit, acacia, honeysuckle and mirabelle plum. Delivers flashes of lemon shortbread and quinine through the finish, giving it both plump and racy elements. This is hard to lay off now, but it has some development ahead of it. Clairetty, Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc and Roussanne. Drink now through 2030. — J.M.
93 points | $65 | 400 cases imported | Red
Shows sneaky richness, as plus paste and cherry preserve notes unwine slowly, carried by silky yet substantial tannins. Features anise, black tea, and a late flash of shiso leaf, which add range through the finish. Alluring. Grenache and Mouvèdre. Best from 2023 through 2036. — J.M.
CLOS ROQUETE 2020
93 point | $59 | 150 cases imported | White
Vivid, with a mix of honeysuckle, white peach, star fruit, acacia, green plum and quinine notes that are racy, lively and well-detailed through the finish. Shows a lovely mineral echo at the end, too. Clairette, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc. Drink now through 2026. — J.M.
In the late 1990s, Daniel Brunier was expanding his family’s holdings. Along with his brother Frédéric, Daniel had Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe, the family’s flagship property in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, humming along. Vineyards in the Ventoux had been acquired for additional bottlings and he had set up his Massaya venture in Lebanon.
« We were looking to expand a bit more, maybe [50, 75, 100 acres] of Côtes du Rhône vines somewhere, » he says. « To be honest, at that time, even though Gigondas was not a big name, it was a little too expensive for us. »
But one day Brunier got a call to come visit Domaine Les Pallières, a Gigondas estate with 60 acres of vines, and a big problem: It wasn’t selling any wine. In the cellar, still in foudres and vats, were five vintages’ worth of wine, from 1993 through 1997. The 1998 harvest was hanging on the vine, and there was literally nowhere to put it.
The estate can be divided into two portions, upper and lower. The upper terraces are over 1,000 feet in elevation, average about 45 years of age and are planted primarily to Grenache with some Mourvèdre. The parcels around the winery itself range from 650 to 800 feet, and the Grenache, along with a mix of Cinsault and Syrah, are markedly older, at 70 years and up. Brunier vinified these two portions separately, then eventually blended them to make a single estate cuvée. But he kept finding the tannins a bit tight, even « rude, » as he puts it.