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En Primeur

Justerini & Brooks
En Primeur Rhône

France’s wine growing “Rhone Valley” in reality covers two very distinct wine growing regions, separated by a vine-free gap of approximately 30 miles. Up and down the quality scale the Rhone stands out today for offering serious wines made by small quality conscious growers at very reasonable prices. A stellar run of recent vintages (barring the obvious 2002) and a wider pool of quality wine making talent than ever before has see the Rhone in recent years very much regaining its position front of mind for many of the world’s great wine collectors.

Rhône 2020

For the charm, balance and youthful beauty of its wines, 2020 is an unmissable vintage. Overall, it was a sunny year characterised by drought and a good-sized crop (for the majority of producers), with less extreme heat and higher yields than its predecessor, 2019. As a result, the wines feel less powerful, but more immediate and even-keeled. Make no mistake, though, the best 2020s have sufficient depth and the right balance to ensure excellent ageing potential. These are sun-kissed but juicy, harmonious wines with less alcohol than the 2019s, a difference in some cases of up to half a degree. Producers across the length and breadth of the Rhône extol the vintage’s virtues, with Domaine Clusel Roch describing 2020 as like a balance of 2018 and 2016 but better than either; or Jolivet who considers it “juicy and elegant”, whilst in the south Barroche compare it to the great 2012 in that the ‘20s are “similarly round but fresher”. Beaucastel go the whole hog and call it “one of the all-time classics,” referencing the great 1990 and 2010 vintages as comparisons.

The Flamboyant and Voluptuous 2019 Rhônes

Another “9“ makes its mark

Like 79, 89, 99 and 2009 before it, the Perrins consider 2019 to be another in a line of ‘9s that “regularly mark the memory of winegrowers.” This is very aptly worded. For the 2019 season conditions certainly made an impression right across the Rhône valley. Wherever estates were based, Northern or Southern Rhône, they all shared the same challenge – a very dry and hot summer. It is rare for such meteorological conditions to be felt so equally throughout the Rhône. The only devastating anomaly being a hailstorm that hit the “Chassis” plateau of Crozes, wiping out between 20-100% of the crop there. The preceding winter was very wet and boosted water reserves, helping to sustain the vineyards during Summer 2019’s drought. An equally crucial role in 2019’s success, though, was also played by growers and their ability to adapt their growing techniques to conditions; limiting impact and stress and vines, soils; shading bunches proved vital.

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