Over the past decade and a half, good vintages have become routine in the South of France. Counting backward, it’s possible to click them off with almost metronomic regularity: 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998.
Although not all of these years were created equal, all merited consumer interest on release, and many of the wines from these vintages continue to drink well. Consult the annotated vintage chart for details about vintage styles, which parts of the valley fared best and when to drink the wines.
Many of the 2010s—particularly the top cuvées—have yet to be formally reviewed in blind tastings, but based on extensive visits and tastings with the winemakers, it’s clear that 2009 and 2010 are the best back-to-back vintages in memory.
Each year has a unique style and has strengths in different areas, so despite both vintages being enormously successful, it’s worth getting to know them in detail prior to making big purchases.
In the Northern Rhône, where Syrah is the lone red grape variety, the differences in style between the two years are dramatic. As Michel Chapoutier told me last year as we tasted through barrel samples of his 2010s, 2009 is a year that shows the season’s warmth and ripeness, while in 2010, the differences of terroir are more dramatic.
It’s an apt description that matches my impressions now that the majority of the 2010s are in bottle. If you are a fan of the Syrah grape, you will love the dark fruit and plush tannins of the 2009s from the Northern Rhône. If you are a fan of Northern Rhône terroirs, you will love the precision of the 2010s.
“I prefer a bit 2010, maybe because most people talk about 2009,” says Jean Gonon, who manages Domaine Pierre Gonon in Mauves (Saint-Joseph) with his brother, Pierre. “In fact, 2009 is marked by the climate more than the site,” he says.
At the nearby Domaine Coursodon, also in Mauves, vigneron Jérôme Coursodon concurs with this assessment, describing 2009 as “enormous and very concentrated,” but going on to say, “For me, the elegance of 2010 is better—it has no dried fruit aromas.”
As both of these producers boast vineyards having prime expositions and shallow soils of decomposed granite, it’s perhaps no surprise that they favor a vintage that showcases terroir over heat, but the story is slightly different in Crozes-Hermitage.
Crozes-Hermitage encompasses several different terroirs, but the majority of the appellation is not so well situated, being largely flat and possessing fairly deep soils. As a result, the 2009s from Crozes-Hermitage are almost uniformly attractive, with deeper-than-usual fruit because of ... read on