Syrah With an Incredible Sense of Place but Missing a Few Key Components

Today’s Story: Marie et Pierre Bénetière

Marie et Pierre Bénetière is a very small family-owned and operated wine estate located in the Northern Rhône appellation of Condrieu. As a native of Condrieu, Pierre developed a love and passion for Viognier at a young age and set his sights on making wine for a career. Pierre’s first love was the wine of Domaine Georges Vernay, a legendary vigneron in the appellation who Pierre studied under at the start of his career. Though Pierre didn’t have a ton of money at the time, he purchased a small unplanted parcel on an incredibly steep hill in the very southern reaches of Côte-Rôtie to begin his namesake domain. Pierre spent years manually carving terraces into the rocks and planting vines, which he continues to do to this day. Over time, he was able to acquire a couple parcels in his beloved Condrieu and today owns 2.5 hectares (6 acres) between the two appellations.

Due to the incredibly steep hillsides of Côte-Rôtie and Condrieu, Pierre works entirely by hand in his vineyards as do practically all of his neighbors. From a winemaking perspective, Pierre follows rather traditional techniques including full stem inclusion with his Syrah and minimal SO2 adds throughout the process. A reserved and private man, Pierre maintains a small cellar for his wines where he produces Condrieu (Viognier) and Côte-Rôtie (Syrah) designated bottles. The Syrah portfolio includes two wines, the Cordeloux which I am reviewing today and the Dolium which is only made in the greatest vintages and when yields allow. Each Syrah bottling represents a distinct terroir of Côte-Rôtie, with the Cordeloux sourced from vines on the granitic Côte Blonde and the Dolium sourced from vines on the clay and iron rich Côte Brune.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Cordeloux Syrah

100% Syrah; 12.5% ABV

The 2015 Cordeloux Syrah is deep ruby in color. I decanted this for three hours and tasted it along the way, though finished the bottle over a total of six hours. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of black cherry, black olive, bacon fat, forest floor, charred underbrush, truffle, cracked black pepper, a hint of smoke, and chocolate. There’s slight VA here as well, though not as bad as what other consumers have reported and not enough to make it unenjoyable to drink. The flavors are also of medium intensity, and the palate offers up notes of brambly blackberry, black cherry, tobacco leaf, olive, mushroom, smoked meat, forest floor, crushed rock, cracked green peppercorn, and chocolate. This dry red is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) dusty tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium length finish. While I got lucky due to the reported bottle variation and VA experiences, I was worried about this one the first hour or two of decanting. With such a young wine I’m concerned slightly by the lack of fruit, however the classic tertiary notes of Syrah found in this bottling are great for current drinking. Needs to be slightly better-balanced and more intense to warrant a very good or outstanding quality rating.

Price: $150. There’s a lot of good in this wine from an aroma and taste perspective, however I think by being slightly off-balanced, not very intense, and with a shorter finish than expected I can’t justify the price-point. Factoring in the reported bottle variation, this vintage seems like a gamble. All this being said though, there’s more than enough for me to like to encourage me to seek out other vintages of Bénetière.

If this wine seems like something you might enjoy, you may find this link helpful in locating it.

An Interesting Note on the 2015 Vintage:

You may have noticed on my label shot above, if you have a discerning eye, that it appears there are two labels on this bottle. For instance, you can see some of the font below overlapping the label above. In other vintages of this bottling, the label shows the AOC designation of Côte-Rôtie where the Syrah for this wine is planted. In the 2015 vintage, however, according to Chambers Street Wines the domaine filed paperwork for AOC designation too late and the wine could therefore not sell under the Côte-Rôtie AOC designation. Instead of peeling off all the original labels with this designation, a second label was placed over top with the lower designation of “Vin de France” coupled with the wine’s variety which is Syrah. Thinking it might make for an interesting keepsake or picture at the least, I partially peeled back the top label to reveal the below: