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Lovely fruity syrah from the northern Rhône and from the low-yielding 2013 vintage. There is some concentration here and dark spicy fruit.
Product Code: RH43281
View all products by Domaine Villard
Food and wine are never far apart in the Rhône. This is hardly surprising when one considers that some of the world's greatest eating houses can be found between Lyon and Valence. So for Francois Villard's professional life began at the age of 20 as a waiter and wine-waiter when the wine bug really hit home. He bought vines in Condrieu and set up cellars behind those of his friend Yves cuilleron. He then built offices and cellar space on the plateau, above the vines of Condrieu. His idea of wine making is like cooking, forever searching, for ever questioning and trying new things out. It took him a while to get the hang of making red wine. There was a time when the wines were too inky. Not so today when on the contrary they surprise by their delicacy as well as by their depth and power. Like many of his colleagues, Villard has his fingers in lots of different pies, including the one of reconstructing the Roman vineyards that existed around the town of Vienne and that became abandoned at the time of phylloxera and the Great War. The vines all tend to have cuvée names and are not necessarily linked to any one vineyard. Reflets for example is a blend of old vines selected from top sites and aged extensively in barrel.
A narrow, funnel-shaped vineyard extends on both sides of the Rhône from Vienne in the north to Valance in the south. The scenery is often dramatic with many of the vineyards perched precariously on the steep valley sides. The wines match the scenery: deeply coloured, fine, spicy reds made from the syrah grape and rich, full-bodied whites made from marsanne and roussanne grapes, or the more aromatic viognier up in Condrieu. Granite, sandy silica and clay soils predominate though small traces of limestone may also be found in Hermitage, Crozes and Cornas. Production here is relatively small, accounting for less than 3% of the total for the Rhône Valley. Most of the wines are sold by appellation with three being white only, two red only and three others where both red and white can be made. The appellation Côtes-du-Rhône is rarely seen in the north and may well disappear altogether. On the other hand, full use is made of the vin de pays/vin de France category which allows producers to make slightly simpler wines from young vines or from vines that for one reason or another were not included in any appellation.Seyssuel There is no appellation Seyssuel. These steep vineyards on the left bank close to Vienne were once famous but fell into obscurity after phylloxera wiped them out in the 19th century. Since the late 1990s, however, there has been a move to reclaim this valuable land for the vine. Many growers are involved here and the results are extremely good. The wines are broadly similar to Côte-Rôtie in style but maybe riper and more dramatic, the vines, after all, face the evening sun and there is more heat here than in Côte-Rôtie. Full appellation status is probably just a few years away after the efforts of Ogier, Villard and Villa have done so much to put it on the map.Côte-Rôtie Red only. The “roasted slope”, only half an hour’s drive south of Beaujolais, this northernmost outpost of the syrah grape produces wines that at times can match Burgundy for delicacy and charm. The vineyard is very steep with an incline of as much as 60 degrees. Guigal is the most important producer attracting the highest prices, but there are dozens of smallholders making interesting wines. Guigal has made new oak very fashionable and many growers use it sometimes to excess.Condrieu White only from the viognier grape. The scent of apricot in a good example of Condrieu is almost intoxicating. Rapid expansion of vineyards means that there are lots of young vines and therefore wines that lack substance, so there is good reason to get to know the better growers, such as André Perret, François Villard and Christophe Pichon, and follow them..Saint-Joseph Reds from syrah and whites from marsanne and roussanne; reds are more exciting. The best Saint-Josephs have class and can be good value. Some of the best slopes are only now being replanted after years of neglect, so huge potential. Many top producers have started to bring out single-vineyard Saint-Josephs. All can be brilliant and though pricey, offer better value than top-end Côte-Rôties for example. Look for the grower’s name. Crozes-Hermitage Reds are made from syrah and whites from marsanne and roussanne. Crozes-Hermitage accounts for more than half of the northern Rhône and its wines are plentiful and accessible. Reds are better than whites. Crozes-Hermitage comes in two parts. The largest is on the flat, close to the river and what would have been a river bed. It produces deeply coloured reds that are soft and fruity and without question a perfect introduction to the syrah of the north. The other part is behind the hill of Hermitage, sometimes on granite but mostly on white clay and limestone. This is the historic heart of Crozes producing wines of interest and substance and the whites from here can be outstanding too.Hermitage Syrah for reds, marsanne with a little roussanne for whites. This amazing southfacing slope has the greatest pedigree of any wine in the Rhône Valley. Its complex geology ensures added interest and complexity and in good years, Hermitage may sit at the highest tables. The downside is that the quality and reputation of Hermitage wines from the best producers means that there is a very limited supply of the best wines, and prices are set to rise.Cornas Red only from syrah. It is a small appellation nestling in a half amphitheatre of mostly granite, all facing fully south. The climate here is significantly warmer so Cornas is often among the first to harvest. Wines are black, thick and often tannic in their youth. Style is changing and quality is on the up, almost matching Hermitage. Cornas remains an uncompromising wine and rewards good food. Always decant.Saint-Péray White only made from marsanne and roussanne. The granite of Cornas gives way to limestone. The wines have more acidity and keep well. For some unaccountable reason, historically, most of the wine was sparkling but mercifully things are changing. There is big potential for fine whites. Producer’s name is essential. The Drôme Valley This is a major tributary of the Rhône that rises in the Alps and joins up with the Rhône to the south of Valence. At the western end there are a few vineyards, mostly of syrah and sold as Côtes-du- Rhône Brézème. This is rare, very little known and amazingly good-value source for Crozes-like reds. Further east, the landscape becomes more mountainous and the grapes mostly white, clairette and muscat and wines are mostly sparkling. Clairette de Die is light and sweet, a bit like Italian Asti, while Crémant de Die is dry and full-flavoured.
The years go by and no two vintages are ever the same. In 2013, there was no spring. In its place, the cold, wet winter just seemed to go on forever. It wasn’t until July that temperatures began to rise, and suddenly summer arrived. Flowering was poor and the grenache grape suffered especially. The Indian summer, which was never too hot, came as blissful respite for growers who began to wonder whether they would ever be able to pick. Northern RhôneThe first thing Thierry Allemand said was: ‘At last! A true Cornas vintage’. His wines have virility, lift and an abundance of fruit; there is a definition to the wines that mark them out. 2013 northern Rhône syrah is sleek, succulent and concentrated. The tannins are present but, by and large, they’re ripe. So much so that many growers have gone back to whole-bunch fermentation, stalks and all. Crozes-Hermitage, the portal to understanding Rhône syrah, was outstanding in 2013. Wines from Cornas, Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage will all require patience, such is the weight of matter in these wines, but it will be rewarded. Southern RhôneThe south was more challenging. Not only were the yields incredibly low but there was hardly any grenache. What to do? Growers had to adapt, make fewer cuvées and then bring to the world wines with more syrah or mourvedre. So some of these southern 2013s are atypical, with more colour, more grip and more fruit. In some cases, the wines are fractionally less alcoholic too. The results are surprising though uneven and so the line up from the south looks a little different to normal as we too have had to adapt. There is more from Gigondas as unquestioningly 2013 is a great Gigondas vintage. Success in Châteauneuf-du-Pape was also possible: Vincent Avril at Clos des Papes made a great Châteauneuf but did so by severe pruning. He yielded just 13.5hl/ha, a record low at this estate.The whites - In a word: stunning. From Condrieu in the north all the way down to the Roussillon, 2013 is a stunning white vintage where fruit, grip and concentration combine perfectly.
"Medium/light bodied, mature wine. Peppery character, obviously! OK value, but there are better choices from the Society’s northern Rhône list, in my opinion."
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