2014,2015,2016… das schreibt Robert Parkers Spezialist

Auch wenn ich nicht immer oder besser im Detail der Meinung von Jeb Dunnuck, dem Spezialisten von Robert Parker für Côte du Rhône, bin, hat er doch hier die Jahrgänge gut beschrieben.

JEB DUNNUCK      28th Oct 2016 | The Wine Advocate

As I reported in Issue #221, the 2014 vintage yielded forward, open knit and charming wines that are geared for relatively near-term drinking. While it’s a true vigneron’s vintage that favored those who worked their vineyards and made a strict selection, high yields due to an early, mild spring and a cool, rainy finish to the season made making truly great wines damn near impossible. Most wines show good ripeness levels (there are rarely any green aromas/flavors), moderate concentration, and at times a firm edge to the tannin due to the difficulty in getting full phenolic ripeness. The vast majority are ready to go and relatively early drinkers, yet like all small vintages (or a petit Millésime as the French say), there will always be some standouts that will surprise at ten years of age. Nevertheless, this was a difficult vintage from the south that produced charming, superficial wines geared for near-term pleasure. It is worth noting as you move away from the Rhône River corridor, the quality starts to improve and Costières de Nîmes and Ventoux; both had solid vintages (Syrah in the Ventoux, in particular, excelled).

As for the 2015 vintage, this is certainly a very, very good vintage for the entire Southern Rhône Valley. The vintage started with a normal spring and an even crop set, before turning hot and dry through the end of August. Temperatures routinely exceeded 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and from April through September, the region received more sunshine than in either 2010 or 2011, which were both very sunny years. However, storms late in August, and again in September, resulted in a later, lengthy harvest.

The reds are full-bodied and show beautiful purity of fruit, good concentration and notable, yet ripe and rounded tannin structures. Moreover, the quality is incredibly high across all of the appellations, and even across all varieties, which is uncommon. However, while the average quality is high, I found fewer truly great wines than I would expect from an exceptional vintage. Alcohol levels are slightly down over 2010 and 2007, and the wines stay fresh, focused and lively on the palate, with more finesse than overt power and richness. Most vignerons I spoke with compared 2015 to a mix of 2007 and 2010, but I find that comparison optimistic. In my mind, 2015 is closer to a beefed up 2006, with very classic, pure characters that I suspect will evolve gracefully in the cellar. In addition, this is fabulous vintage for the whites! The acidity is slightly lower than in the 2014s, but there’s additional concentration, texture and richness, and the inherent purity and freshness of the 2015 vintage is still present. While the 2000s saw an incredible climb in the quality of the reds, we’re now seeing the same qualitative growth with the whites. At the end of the day, 2015 is a beautiful vintage for Southern Rhône lovers that will be a treasure trove for the actual wine drinkers out there.

I wanted to quickly comment on the 2016 vintage, as I was there during the start of the harvest. This is another hot, very dry year, and there were stark differences between vineyards. The old vine vineyards farmed well and plowed often were green, healthy and vibrant at the start of September, while the younger vines and poorly farmed sites were noticeably suffering. In addition, the color of the berries was superb, and the grapes were noticeably more sweet and ripe than at the same time last year. I’ll cover these from barrel next year, but the Southern Rhône looks to have two superb vintages with the 2015s and 2016s.

The Wines
I tasted all of these wines at the end of August and the first part of September, 2016, when I spent two weeks working in the Southern Rhône. I followed these tastings with numerous tastings at my office in Colorado. Keep in mind that the vast majority of the 2014s were tasted out of bottle, and almost all of the 2015s were tasted as tank samples. This report focuses mostly on Châteauneuf du Pape, but includes a small number of vignerons outside of the appellation. I’ll report in depth on the 2014s and 2015s from Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Rasteau and the other Côtes du Rhône appellations in a subsequent report.

It’s a good time to be a Rhône lover and happy hunting!

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