2017 Rhône & Languedoc-Roussillon
Seductive, ripe, dark & delightful
A vintage that seduces, with dark ripe fruit in abundance
There is a word in French which came up time and again when tasting these gorgeous 2017s. That word is sucrosité. It isn’t actual sweetness but rather a sensation of sweetness that comes from very ripe fruit. That in a nutshell describes the 2017 vintage.
Weather-wise, it was a vintage marked by drought. In some areas, there was hardly a drop of rain between May and November. Heat was also a factor but it wasn’t constant heat as in 2003. And in some areas, there was also frost.
The downside is that quantity is down, at best by 10% but in some cases by half. The upside is quality. The harvest itself, a little earlier than usual, was accompanied by perfect weather. Fruit quality was impeccable.
2017 is the year for the syrah grape and most growers I spoke to agreed, pointing out that syrah was perfectly formed and fully ripe. Everything just fell into place. That was also true for many of the other varieties, such as mourvèdre, cinsault and carignan.
And grenache, the mainstay of the south? Curiously this is not a grape that copes well in drought conditions. If it’s too hot and too dry, grenache goes to sleep and has to be gently coaxed back to life. So it is always harvested late. This is exactly what happened in 2017. Eventually, it did come round and the results, in places, are spectacular.
The 2017s are marked by flavours of ripe fruit, which are deeply Mediterranean in character. Expect dried herbs, olive, fig, plum, blueberry and blackberry to be in the spectrum. The wines are a joy. Do not miss them.
Region by Region
The Northern Reds
Northern syrahs are lush, rich and succulent with the flavours of dark fruit and gentle spice. The grapes reached perfect levels of ripeness, so the tannins are round and well integrated. 2017 is another great vintage for Hermitage, offering concentration and density thanks to low yields. The same is true for the rest with Crozes-Hermitage, the biggest of the appellations, deserving special mention.
The Southern Reds
The grenache crop was small in 2017 so expect most blends to rely more on other grapes such as syrah and mourvèdre. The harvest was long: it began in August for the whites and went well into October for the grenache. Remarkably, one famous Châteauneuf estate was still picking in November! The challenge for the grenache grape was to pick it fully ripe. That meant plenty of work in the vineyard. So not surprisingly, the best wines come from the hardest and most diligent growers.
There were great results from everywhere but I especially loved wines from those areas that harvest late such as Gigondas and Vinsobres. There are stunning results here, and the same follows for the Languedoc.
Most growers quickly realised that care was needed in making white wines that were not too heavy and flabby. Grapes were picked early, sometimes at night to retain freshness. There was often less extraction and less use of oak. I loved the wines from Saint-Péray as they always preserve what is sometimes called ‘minerality’. Viognier-based wines, including of course Condrieu, are wonderfully exuberant.
Southern whites prioritised certain grape varieties such as picpoul, clairette and bourboulenc which steer away from corpulence. The best wines exude aroma and have a beguiling, juicy richness about them.
A note about alcohols: For the first time in a Rhône offer, we are including indicative alcohol levels for all wines in the offer. Please note however that these are intended as a guideline and may differ once the wine is in bottle.
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