Two Icons of the Rhone 2016 Clape and Rostaing

The early reports are that 2016 looks like an excellent vintage, giving the north a one-two punch following 2015. WINE SPECTATOR

Following the huge success of the 2015 vintage, which produced deeply concentrated, structured and age-worthy wines, 2016 pivoted almost 180 degrees by issuing an abundance of graceful, elegant reds that showcase balance and freshness over mass and power.

Northern Rhône wine lovers with purist leanings will be head over heels with the soon-to-be-released 2016 vintage, which offers an abundance of energetic, well-balanced and generally graceful wines. As impressive as the 2015s are, I’ve encountered a not-insignificant number of collectors who view many of the wines as too much of a good thing: too ripe, too rich, too heavy, too tannic…you get the picture. Most of the producers I visit on my annual trips sympathize with that view to an extent.

There are no such qualms when it comes to the 2016s, though. A number of producers call it a “dream vintage” for the wines’ collective balance, freshness and expression of terroir. Based on the performance of the wines I tasted from barrel in late March and early June, and the handful of finished wines that I was able to try when I returned home, 2016 is a vintage that’s a must-buy for readers who prize Syrah built along pure, graceful, dare I say feminine, lines. Even so, the wines are in no way lacking depth of flavor or structure, which leads me to think that many of the wines will hit their 20th birthday in fine form. JOSH RAYNOLDS, Vinous Media

While it doesn’t get any more Cornas than Clape, these wines also speak just as loudly of the domaine as they do of the steep granite slopes of the appellation. There’s always something unique in these wines, something bloody, meaty and iron-like, and I’ve yet to find something similar in other wines. In my opinion, these wines are the epitome of Cornas. JEB DUNNUCK, Wine Advocate

René Rostaing tells me he thinks of 2016 as “the definition of Côte-Rôtie. The vintage personality is made of finesse, freshness and detail, with power but not weight.” He finds the wines to be “fine but not delicate, or fragile at all” and thinks they will age gracefully “but be attractive throughout their lives, without ever really closing up.” While Rostaing respects 2015 for its “depth, power and structure” he believes “2016 to be a truer Côte-Rôtie vintage” because of the aforementioned freshness and elegance, attributes that “make the appellation unique in the northern Rhône.” Rostaing adds “ripe vintages may make impressive wines but too often they obscure terroir and finesse.” Note that because of the quality of the 2016 vintage Rostaing made the La Viallière bottling for the first time since 1986. Up until now all of the fruit went into the Ampodium. There is also a ’16 Côte-Brune, which had only been bottled by itself in 2013. JOSH RAYNOLDS

I think anyone receiving this email, as you will be on our Rhone VIP list, will need little or no introduction to these two estates. Both represent the pinnacle of their respective regions and in the context of their areas they have few peers.

A little recap on them both from my perspective. Clape is the original and the best when it comes to Cornas. His wines are the essence of the region, typically displaying a rocky expression of minerality and a wild earthiness. Deeply pitched, youthfully brooding when young and utterly captivating at their best, and when they are at their best they are my favourite expression of the variety anywhere on the planet.

Rostaing’s style is one built around freshness and purity. He is well known to prefer the cooler, more classic vintages and firmly believes that freshness and finesse is what sets the Cote apart from other Syrah regions. His wines are elegant, wonderfully textural and at their core there is always a sense of tension, a precision rarely seen elsewhere here. If you love classically built Northern Rhone reds then he is the man.

This offer represents two of the most iconic and sought after producers in the Northern Rhone from a vintage that ticks all of the boxes for those of us who prefer the fresher and brighter expressions from the region. While 2015 garnered a lot of early praise because of the sheer size and power of the wines it yielded the 2016s show more promise for me, they are the kinds of wines that excite, thrilling examples of terroir and demonstrate classicism in all the best ways.