Broad generalisations only but the south suffered massively from Mildew until the weather turned in early June and some of the producers we visited made very good wines( Charvin), whilst others sold all their crop to Negoces ( Biscarelle).
The Northern Rhône’s we tried( Gilles, Gripa, Gonon, Garon, Rostaing), admittedly top tier producers, were superb, ripe certainly but with great freshness and apparently, unexpectedly very low pH’s. I shall hopefully be buying a modest selection of the above if allocations allow.
Interesting Jim - tallies quite closely with my impressions.
The top tier stuff from the North that I tried last week generally showed well - with one or two absolute stunners. The ‘village’ level wines were very often a complete mess. My early impression is that the best terroirs seem to have come through the vintage conditions relatively unscathed. It is not a vintage for classically shaped wines.
In the South, Charvin seems to have worked his magic again. I really liked the VT too - the sample I tried had a wonderful elegance to it that I found quite seductive.
it strikes me as a stock picker’s vintage. Don’t buy a tracker fund.
The ‘19’s from barrel were mighty fine too, North and South. The growers were purring about quality and quantity!
Will we ever see a lean year again? 2013 was a cold year(relatively) but even that produced a ripe crop in the best sites and since then...
I went to the J&B Rhone (and Champagne) tasting today. The wines were surprisingly approachable but I can't say I was greatly impressed! Tasted a number of decent producers and my thoughts were (2018s unless otherwise stated):
Vieux Telegraphe: CNDP Blanc lacked impact; CNDP Rouge surprisingly fresh and attractive given hot year/short crop, but not a knockout
Beaucastel: Gigondas Clos du Tourelles was again pretty soft, but had good length and structure and attractive forest fruit; CNDP didn't show well and I query the health of the sample; CNDP 2006 (a vintage I have in my cellar) also didn't show well, and begged to be drunk up; CNDP Hommage a Jacques Perrin 2014 was monumental, and very good, but hardly worth £200/bottle IB
Perret: St Joseph Blanc was boring, with bitterness its only distinguishing characteristic; Condrieu Clos Chanson and Coteau de Chery were pretty good, especially the spicy, exotic and pineappley Clos Chanson, but I'd rather pay a bit more and buy Vernay; St Joseph Les Grisieres was heady, powerful and overly glossy; St Joseph 2013 was tart and also felt like it was a bit over the hill
Domaine du Colombier: Hermitage Blanc was tart but fell a bit flat; Crozes Cuvee Gaby was chewy, savoury and quite thick; Hermitage (a wine I have enjoyed in the past) had lots of chocolatey rich power and was actually almost impressive
Clusel-Roch: showed quite a few cuvees. Les Schistes was volatile and NR; La Vialliere was sweet, pure and mineral; Les Grandes Places (again a wine I have enjoyed before) was actually nice, with good balance and some attractive floral tones.
Rostaing: showed the best of the reds tonight (which I didn't think was the case at the 2017 tastings). Ampodium 2013 was deep, soft and smoky and showed real quality; La Landonne was inky, savoury, medicinal and herbal - finally some complexity; Cote Blonde was fairly similar, but softer and more bitter; Cote Brune took that a little further, with liquorice and good length. I see Decanter and Vinous have rated the three Rostaing 2018s I tasted in their top few Northern Rhone 2018s - I don't find this particularly encouraging (although I'm no oracle at how wine from cask will age).
Overall - mostly soft tannins but not much appeal, at least at this stage. I preferred the more reserved and less aggressively fruity 2017s; it felt as though tonight's wines had a long way to go before they had the flavours (as opposed to the structure) that I enjoy in mature Rhone wine.
Jancis scores for the 2018 Northern Rhone reds are out. Also suggest that Rostaing had a good year, as did Cote Rotie in general apparently (as it's cooler), but scores are generally lower than for 2015-17.
I think the reason why I didn't enjoy the wines last night is that the fruit is just off-puttingly, almost obscenely ripe in the 2018s. It will be interesting to see how they evolve (I'll try to taste them again in the spring), but I shan't be buying any yet.
JLL's latest report mentions the heavy attack of mildew that decimated parts of Chateauneuf du Pape in 2018 with Rayas only making 800 litres of the CNDP Rouge. He suggests that this is likely to all be kept for family use, rather than sold commercially. Volumes will be well down for many producers.
Rostaing seems to have made some monsters in 2018....but they are pretty impressive, show-stopping monsters if you like that kind of thing. The Landonne has enormous fruit density and tannins that will probably outlast all of us, whereas the Blonde is slightly lower volume, more refined and more mysterious but still has more grunt than about any vintage that I can recall. Do not bet on drinking either before about 2125.
Clusel Roch largely nailed it...although, like Nick, I did struggle a bit with a sample of their classique. Their Grandes Places is one of the most unheralded wines of the N Rhone and the 18 seems to keep the vintage's excesses largely in check.
Most remains a bit up and down...with flamboyant fruit the domineering characteristic, especially in the poorer terroirs.
The biggest surprise for me so far has been the quality of the northern whites. Perret's whites are lovely this year...with the St Jo Blanc offering the value of the range. Ogier's Rosine is another value white to look very seriously at.
Also of note is how well a couple of 13s have showed recently....the best vintage between 10 and 15 IMHO at quality addresses, and the latter year could arguably have a digit added depending on your palate preference. The wines walk the 'just ripe' tightrope and are all the better for it when compared with how most 18s seem to be shaping up.
Down Sarf....VT 18 has shown really well for me a couple of times now. Very elegant, almost weightless, this year. And I think Jean-Paul Versino has done another really good job. More Mourvedre than usual this year as he didn't make any Felix. He's an arch traditionalist - and if you like that style of elegant, slightly rustic CdP made with stems then he's as good as anyone and the prices are more than fair.
Overall...there are cherries to be had...but picking only cherries will require a bit of effort this year.
I wasn't able to get to the J&B tasting due to being unwell. I've been trying Rhone EP since 2013 so shame to miss this year. However I am not really so keen on buying Northern Rhone these days. I have only a finite wine budget and from a value for money point of view, not much beats Piedmont 2016s. I find Northern Rhones have climbed to a level where I am comfortable turning them down and not regretting it, particularly as my cellar is not short on fairly recent vintages by any means, and also back vintages are generally available as well.
So the TWS and A&B Rhone offers are now out - any thoughts? I have bought a bit of Vernay and Sorrel (Greal and Crozes) already and pondering whether to pick up some more modest St Joseph or Cote Rotie, and/or some Marsanne-based white. That said, I'm going to the TWS Rhone event at the beginning of March and understand that there'll be some young but already bottled and released wines to try and buy, so maybe I should just wait for that. I'm still not sure whether the supple and massively fruity 2018s are my ideal style for Northern Rhone; I think I might prefer something cooler and more brooding.
I have seen reviews by Richard Hemming @ JR.com and Matt Walls @ Decanter. Josh Reynolds published some reviews back in July 2019 @ Vinous (although the wines must have been pretty embryonic at that stage). I don't subscribe to JLL. Are there any others I haven't mentioned?
I'm having similar queries.
I'm waiting on an AB request so mums the word, but if not a couple from TWS mainly North, but a Gigondas not out of the question.
Oh and how did the whites line up. Money and time!
From TWS offer I rather fancy these in the more accessible price band.
Crozes-Hermitage Les Picaudières
Saint-Joseph Rouge, Domaine Gonon
Cornas Patou, Domaine Dumien-Serette.
Côte Rôtie Les Triotes, Domaine Garon.
Côte Rôtie Ampodium, Domaine Rostaing.
Hermitage, Domaine Faurie
Gigondas, Domaine La Bouissières
Gigondas Ventebran, Moulin de la Gardette.
Condrieu, Cave Merlin
Condrieu La Bonnette, Domaine Rostaing
Saint-Péray Les Figuiers, Domaine Gripa
Either tasted these last year(75%) or have bought over the years (25%)
I will have to edit the above to a more reasonable amount but if money/ time were not an issue...