Blind tasting: 2010 Northern Rhones

Checking up on some recent releases


Following on the heels of the much lauded 2009 vintage, the 2010 Northern Rhones are being offered all over the place, with both high scores and high prices as well. A historically small crop resulted from a cool wet spring, that then enjoyed alternating periods of heat and freshness throughout the summer of 2010 producing wines that promise to bring both power and elegance to the table.

2009 is probably a more powerful, and perhaps initially impressive vintage based on a growing season that imbued the wines with huge power and concentration, though perhaps some cooked flavors as well, but 2010 promises to be different. How different? Well that was the question me and one of my tasting groups set out to answer when we put together a small tasting of wines from 2010, following up on last year's dip in these waters.
I've always been a big fan of Syrah, particularly when grown in the northern Rhone, though my interest has waned over the years as the wines began to taste more like SYRAH! and less like the Northern Rhone. More power, alcohol, oak and sweetness have been creeping into my Northern Rhone Syrahs each vintage, and frankly that is not what I'm looking for.

Syrah should combine some fruit with all the savory goodness it's capable of. That savoriness has been deemed defective by many of the powers that be. Not just in Syrah, where olive and game flavors should be treasured, but also in Cabernet Franc and Carmenere, which evidently should taste like pencils ground into blackberry jam rather than the blend of fresh currant and herb that I enjoy.

The world has in fact gone a little mad when it comes to the wines that can celebrate savory, and I was hoping to discover some holdouts during this tasting, and indeed I did. A much debated Texier!  His Dom. Pergaud Brezeme Vielles Serines was the standout wine of the tasting for me, though admittedly it was second from the last for the group as a whole!

For the most part the wines tasted broke down into three groups. The top four wines, which were excellent and full of Northern Rhone Syrahiness, the next three wines which suffered a bit from extraction or were just a bit lacking in excitement, and the last wine which was dreadful! Offensively oaky and just abysmally bad. And that just might reflect the state of the Northern Rhone wine industry, though in different proportions. As is typical around the world, there are too many extracted wines and too many massively oaken wines for my palate, but just like my skilled wine friends did here, with careful selection you can still find some winners out there.

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2010 Rhone Blind Tasting

Texier Brezeme Domaine Pergaud Vieille Serine (2010)
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Domaine Bernard Burgaud Cote Rotie (2010)
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Rene Rostaing Cote-Rotie Ampodium (2010)
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Franck Balthazar Chaillot Cornas (2010)
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J L Chave St Joseph Domaine (2010)
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Clusel-Roch Cote Rotie (2010)
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Domaine Auguste Clape Cornas Renaissance (2010)
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Domaine Garon les Rochains (2010)
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