CUILLERON: Our second day in the Rhône started with a tasting with Yves Cuilleron. The “Cuilleron Empire” continues to expand and requires considerable time to proceed through a tasting. In fact, 32 wines were presented, the result of which was that we were then late for the remaining appointments for that day.
Cuilleron started the 2018 harvest on Sept 4, very early for this region. This was due to the hot, dry weather that occurred during the summer months. In Cuilleron’s case, he considers the crop to be of excellent quality and abundant to boot. This despite the necessity of treating the constant threat of mildew during the spring months. As was the case at many domaines, alcohol levels are higher than normal.
As an aside, I mention here that mildew took its toll, a severe one, in other regions, for example in Chateauneuf where Versino lost 50 to 60% of the normal crop.
I will not take the time nor the space to review very wine we tasted. Know that we are in the midst of an exceptional run of vintages in the northern Rhône. YC describes 2017 as between the 2016 (more elegant and well balanced) and 2015 (more powerful and structured).
The wines are uniformly solid with a consistently high level of concentration and stylistic similarity, which is to say the wines tend to be rich and broad-shouldered but also well balanced and marked by good length. There is a clear sense of terroir within these wines as the geographic differences and appellation profiles are expressed but there is, in my view, an even more dominating sense of a common estate style which treats the notion of terroir as of secondary interest. This is not necessarily a criticism; rather, it is an observation.
Interestingly, Cuilleron has begun to search out other long-ago lost local grape varieties and may ultimately produce a wine from the Duriff grape amongst other forgotten varieties.
Yves will be in New York in early February for a “Rhône Paulee”. I would like to use his presence to collaborate on a dinner in New York or a neighboring market where we can offer some of the very old wines produced by Yves and his uncle that remain in Kerry’s and my cellar.
BECHERAS: I am a big fan of the wines of Etienne Becheras as I find them honest and satisfying and totally absent any pretense. We tasted a few ‘18s for fun and they carry a good deal of color and heft. The next step for us will be to ship the ‘17 whites, the ‘17 Crozes Rouge and the two Saint Joe reds from the ‘16 vintage. Production of the Tour Joviac in ‘17 is down by 40% due to a hail storm. There is more Marsanne than usual (65%) in the St joe Blanc ‘17. The wines that will ship in 2019 will all be bottled between November of this year and January 2019 which means, I point out, that the 2016 reds have a nice long élevage of 2 years and several months.
This concludes the second installment. More to follow soon.