This page is a guide that offers links to detailed profiles for all the top producers from the Northern Rhone located in Cote Rotie and Hermitage with wine tasting notes, reviews, ratings, images and links to buy wine. You will also read about the soil, terroir, wine making, history and wine and food matches
Cote Rotie is perhaps one of the most, elegant, aromatic and seductive wines in the world. At their best, the wines of Cote Rotie offer depth of flavors and complex aromatics including bacon fat, black and red fruits, kirsch, mineral, pepper, earth, spice and floral scents. The best Cote Rotie wines provide ample freshness in the finish, coupled with pure red and sometimes darker berries coupled with opulent textures.
The wines of Cote Rotie at their best are the most sensuous, silky, exotic, vinous treasures in the wine world. They offer textures that caress the palate with erotic sensations and intense perfumes. Due to the small size of the Cote Rotie appellation, coupled with high demand, the prices for most Cote Rotie wines are high, but they can be worth it. The links on the left side of the page bring you to full profiles of the best domaine’s and producers in Cote Rotie. The profiles include wine tasting notes, history, images, information on wine making and terroir. The terroir of Cote Rotie is quite unique. The most famous vineyards of Cote Rotie are located on two hills, known collectively as Cote Blonde and Cote Brune.
But the truth is, Cote Rotie consists of a series of small slopes and hills located not far from Ampuis. Cote Rotie is unique due in part to the fact that many producers add various amounts of Viognier, a white wine grape to their red wine as part of the blend. Viognier is best known as the white grape varietal grown in the Condrieu appellation. The links on this page will bring you to full, detailed profiles with wine tasting notes, histories, information on the wine making and terroir of the following Cote Rotie Producers.
Hermitage, located just south of Cote Rotie is a small appellation. The total size of Hermitage is about 130 hectares of vines. Think about this… Chateau Lafite Rothschild is 100 hectares. Cote Rote is massive in comparison with a whopping 201 planted hectares! Hermitage is located about 30 miles south of Cote Rotie, not far from the village of Tain l’Hermitage. Many of the best Hermitage producers also make wine from nearby Northern Rhone appellations such as; Crozes-Hermitage, Cornas, St. Joseph and St. Peray.
The production of those other appellations dwarfs that of Hermitage. The famous “Hill of Hermitage,” which covers 140 hectares with its steep, rocky, granite, hillsides was granted protected status from the French Government. Hermitage has been used The wine of has a history of being blended with Bordeaux and Burgundy at times in the past, to add body, color and tannin in select vintages.
This discreet practice which was not always openly talked about is no longer allowed. Hermitage is famous for not only their red wines, but for their white wines, which are made from Roussanne and Marsanne grape varieties. A tiny amount of sweet, white Hermitage wine is also produced and sold as Vin de Paille. The links below will bring you to full, detailed profiles on the top domaines in Hermitage where you can red wine tasting notes, information on the history, wine making techniques, terroir and soils of the following estates.
- Everything you want to know about Hermitage Wines and Wineries
- Jean Louis Chave
- Yann Chave
- du Colombier
- Delas Feres
- Guigal Ex Voto
- Jaboulet La Chapelle
- Nicolas Perrin
- Marc Sorrel
- Tardieu Laurent
Best Northern Rhone Vintages 1978, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010. Keep in mind, there can be are differences in quality in the same year between the appellations in the Northern Rhone. So, the years listed for the top vintages in the Northern Rhone, it can vary from appellation to appellation.
It is important to note, that while Cote Rotie and Hermitage are clearly the top appellations in the Northern Rhone, there are other areas that produce outstanding wine, that are much more affordable for most wine lovers. While not offering the same level of finesse or complexity, the wines drink better at a younger age, they are often made by the same producers in Cote Rotie and Hermitage and cost a lot less money.
Crozes Hermitage The history of Crozes Hermitage dates back to perhaps the 1700’s, when wine from Larnage, a village in the appellation began being exported to England, via Bordeaux. At the time, the wine was often better known as vin de Mure, which tooks its name from the most powerful and wealthy family in the village. By the end of the 1800’s, the wines from Crozes Hermitage were the most expensive in the Northern Rhone Valley, after Hermitage and Cote Rotie. The Crozes Hermitage appellation was officially created in 1937 and expanded in 1952. At the time of its initial creation, much of the wines were sold to negociants. Perhaps Jaboulet was the only popular, and successful producer and they were also one of the leading negociants too. That is how the area remained until perhaps the 1970’s. Of course that is no longer the case today, as Crozes Hermitage is quite a viable appellation with numerous producers making very good wine.
Crozes Hermitage is 1,032 hectares. Located on the other side of the hill of Hermitage, just north of Tain, Crozes Hermitage consists of 11 communes. The villages of Serves, Erome and Gervans occupy the most northern part of Crozes Hermitage. There are various terroirs and soils in Corzes. In the north, you find more granite hills, slopes, limestone and red clay. There is more rocks and clay at the bottom of the slopes, on the plains and flatter terroir.
Many of the vineyards located on the flat sections of Crozes Hermitage are machine harvested today, which is certainly not the case with the hillside plantings. Most of the growers desteem 100% of their grapes. Vinifications are performed in concrete tanks. However, the cooperatives prefer using stainless steel vats. On average, the majority of producers age their wine in a combination of new and used, French oak barrels and demi-muids for between 9-12 months, although some estates prefer longer aging times.
On average, at least 92% of the wines produced in Crozes Hermitage are red. Syrah is the only allowable red wine grape. Marsanne and Rousanne are the only white wine grapes planted in the appellation. Red and white wine grape blends are allowed, with a maximum of 15% white wine grapes able to be added to the blend, provided they are co-fermented. However, most of the wine from Crozes Hermitage is produced from 100% Syrah. The top producers in Crozes Hermitage are: Jaboulet, Delas Freres, Alain Graillot, Ferraton, Guigal, Remizieres, Albert Belle, Saint Cosme, Yann Chave, Colombier and Domaine Natacha.
St. Joseph The area of Saint Joseph dates back to 1292. During the 1500’s, the wine was revered and was enjoyed by members of the royal family. The appellation of St. Joseph was created in 1956. At the time, the region only included wine from 6 communes. Those original communes continue to produce the best wine of the appellation; Glun, Lemps, Mauves, St. Jean de Muzols, Tournon and Vion. The best terroir and soils in those areas are the granite hillsides. As you will see, that quickly changed.
The boundaries of St. Joseph were increased in 1969, allowing a total of 25 communes to be used for making wine in the St. Joseph appellation. Saint Joseph has continued increasing in size. In 1971, only 97 hectares were under vine. Today, there are more than 1,200 hectares of vines in the appellation. When you compare that with how few vines were planted in 1956, you can an even clearer picture on the expansion of the appellation. It’s important to note the expansion of the appellation and the original 6 communes in the north of St. Joseph, as the wines from those first 6 communes can sometimes produce the better wines in the appellation. Today, the St. Joseph appellation is almost 45 kilometers apart, from top to bottom, so there are going to be numerous different terroirs, exposures, inclines and micro climates. Of course, vine age, vineyard management, soil and micro climates and other factors come into play when making a wine. But all of that is something to think about when looking at which wines to buy from St. Joseph.
The vineyards in St. Joseph are planted to both red and white wine grape varieties.The terroir of St.Joseph is mostly hillside plantings with granite, limestone, rock and clay soils, which as you now know, can vary widely, due to the large size of the appellation. Roughly 93% of the appellation is planted to red wine grape varieties. AOC law allows for the blend to include up to 10% white wine grapes, provided they are co-fermented. The majority of the grapes are destemmed. Stainless steel tanks are preferred for the vinification by most producers. The major of wine makers age their wines in barrel, with varying percentages of new, French oak barrels and demi-muids for between 12 to 15 months.
The wines of Saint Joseph are some of the most elegant, or feminine wines in the Northern Rhone Valley. They also drink well very early, if not on release and remain very well priced. The top producers in St. Joseph are: Chapoutier, Delas Freres, Guigal, Domaine Coursodon, Andre Perret, Jaboulet, Chave and Ferraton.
Cornas Cornas has a long history as a region planted with vines that dates back to 885. Most of Cornas was produced for the enjoyment of the local population. Although there are rumors that due to its robust character, during the early 1800’s, barrels of Cornas were shipped to Bordeaux and other regions to add strength and vigor to their wines. Cornas became an official appellation in 1938. Only red wine is produced in Cornas. The wines of Cornas were, until the 1950’s sold mostly to locals and in France. Few producers bottled and sold their wine. Most of the harvest, until the early 1980’s was sold to negociants. That is obviously not the case today. Perhaps the leading proponent of Cornas in those days was Jean Luc Colombo. A lot of credit certainly belongs to Jean Luc Colombo for pushing the awareness of Cornas wines outside of France.
Cornas is small, with only 104 hectares under vine. Located just a bit south of St. Joseph, the vineyards and terroir can be easily divided into three sections. In the north, you find granite and limestone soils. In the center, the terroir is mostly granite with clay soils. As you head south, you encounter granite and sand. Cornas is also shaped by the 11 streams that run through the appellation. The terroir is naturally warmer than other vineyards in the Northern Rhone, so the region is almost always one of the earlier appellations to harvest. Cornas remained a small, relatively unknown appellation until Robert Parker scored a wine 100 Pts, which made previously, uninterested collectors take notice of what was often considered to produce a rustic, tannic, character driven Northern Rhone wine. Today, that is no longer the case as Cornas wines are now growing in demand. The top producers of Cornas are: Alain Voge, Courbis, Auguste Clape, Thierry Allemand, Eric et Joel Durand and Vincent Paris.
The following three Northern Rhone appellations only allow for the production of white Rhone wine.
Condrieu The Condrieu appellation was created in 1940. Condrieu, located not far from Cote Rotie only produces white wine from Viognier grapes. The vineyards are distributed into 7 communes. The 105 hectares of vines has a terroir with mostly steep hillsides and granite soils. The wines offer notes of ripe, sweet peaches, orange, apricot and honeydew melon. they are dry, but often taste and feel sweet. For many wine lovers, Condrieu is not a wine for long term aging. The best examples taste better on release or in their first few years after bottling. Although, I must admit, I have friends that like them with age. Oh well… more for them. The best producers of Condrieu are: Guigal, Rene Rostaing, Georges Vernay, Delas Freres and Tardieu Laurent.
Chateau Grillet The appellation of Chateau Grillet, which was created in 1940 is interesting for several reasons. First, only one grape is allowed by law to be planted in the vineyards, Viognier. Next, only one producer occupies the entire region and perforce, owns the only vineyard and makes the only wine in the appellation, Chateau Grillet. The appellation, vineyard and winery was sold by Isabelle Baratin in 2011. Chateau Grillet had been in her family since 1825. The property was purchased by Francois Pinault, the owner of Chateau Latour in Pauillac in 2011.
The Chateau Grillet appellation is 3.8 hectares of vines, planted to Viognier on steep, rocky inclines and terraces. If you think 3.8 hectares is small, prior to 1971, only 1.7 hectares were under vine, making Chateau Grillet the smallest appellation in France. Chateau Grillet, unlike its cousins in Condrieu has the unique ability to age for decades.
St. Peray The appellation of St. Peray was created in 1936. The only wines produced in St. Peray are white wine and sparkling wine. Roussanne and Marsanne are the only grapes allowed by AOC law to be planted in the appellation. Saint Peray consists of roughly 60 hectares of vines. The hillside terroris are mostly granite, limestone and clay soils. St. Peray and Cremant de Die in the Southern Rhone are the only two appellations in the Rhone Valley that allow the production of sparkling wine. St. Peray, while not well known today, was quite famous for much of the 19th century for its sparkling wine. The production of the region is almost evenly divided as 40% of the wines from Saint Peray are sparkling and the remaining 60% of the wines are dry white, Rhone wine. AOC laws demand that the sparkling wine of St. Peray be produced using the Champagne methode. Most of wine made in St. Peray is sold in France. Look for wines from Tardieu Laurent, Francois Villard, Yves Cuilleron and Domaine Clape.