Incredibly Well-Made Côte-Rôtie at a Steal of a Price

Today’s Story: Domaine Xavier Gérard

Domaine Xavier Gérard is an exciting and relatively young Northern Rhône wine producer that, as a rising star, seems to have gone cult over the past few years. In 2013, Xavier Gérard who is now in his 30s took over top-notch parcels from his family’s domain in the Côte-Rôtie and Condrieu appellations. Today his holdings include three hectares (seven acres) of estate-owned vineyards in Condrieu and 2.2 hectares (five acres) of estate-owned vineyards in Côte-Rôtie. He also sources an additional 0.5 hectares (one acre) in Condrieu and one hectare (two acres) in Côte-Rôtie. A small parcel in Saint-Joseph completes the portfolio, resulting in the production of four Viognier bottlings (Condrieu) and two Syrah bottlings (Côte-Rôtie and the single-vineyard designate Côte-Rôtie La Landonne).

From a winemaking standpoint, Xavier has shifted his viticultural practices to organic with a hope of receiving certification in the near future. To this end, he only uses copper sulfate in the vineyards as a treatment for mildew when necessary. Like his neighbors, all vineyard work is done completely by hand thanks to the incredibly steep vineyard sites of the appellations. Additionally, Xavier’s yields are kept rather small thanks to severe pruning, debudding, and green harvesting if necessary, with a typical yield of 35-40 hl/ha.

In the cellar, Xavier follows pretty traditional winemaking practices with minimal intervention the goal. All wines, white and red, go through spontaneous primary fermentation using only native yeasts and see either neutral oak, stainless steel, concrete, or a combination based on cuvée. During aging, the wines enter an oak or stainless steel program based on cuvée (for example the Côte-Rôtie sees 24 months in neutral oak while the Côte-Rôtie La Landonne sees 30 months in 50% new oak) and malolactic fermentation occurs spontaneously in barrel. The wines are only racked off their gross lees following primary fermentation, then off the fine lees not until assemblage. Reds are bottled unfined and unfiltered, while the whites are bottled unfined but plate filtered.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Côte-Rôtie

93% Syrah, 7% Viognier; 13% ABV

The 2016 Côte-Rôtie is medium purple in color. I decanted this for two hours and drank it over the following two hours. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, but the nose is incredibly complex showcasing notes of blackberry, red plum, blueberry, dried black licorice, violet, candied bacon, sun-dried loam, dried rosemary, olive, charred underbrush, cracked black pepper, and a hint of iron. There’s mild oak influence there as well. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium (+) intensity and the palate is equally complex, offering up notes of blueberry, spiced plum, blackberry purée, black cherry, licorice, black olive, violet, sweet tobacco, crushed rock, charred green herbs, ground green peppercorn, cocoa powder, and a hint of baking spice. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium but vibrant acidity, medium tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish. Outstanding quality.

Price: $65. This is a screaming value and I’d be shocked if it stays this way for long. While the intensity is great, the complexity and balance in this wine already at a relatively young age are profound. This kept changing and changing.

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