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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.

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.

Rhône 2018

Sun-kissed Rhône seduction

Generalising about the 2018 Rhône vintage is difficult. Where it was a small crop it was tiny and where it wasn’t it was big! Equally paradoxical is the style of the wines – some of which are really attractive and seductive now, others are blockbusters that will require great patience. Nor do these differences divide neatly into the Northern or Southern Rhône. What is clear, though, is the pattern of the season: 2018 started with an intolerably prolonged wet period in Spring that was ended by a long bout of hot, dry weather that began at the end of June; there was an extremely hot August and finally a harvest period that was very warm throughout. One grower I spoke to described 2018 as “tropical.” Low yields or high, 2018 produced rich, ripe grapes that were in tip top health. Alcohols and tannic structures were relatively high and acids low. There are plenty of delicious wines to seek out, but whether they are for keeping or drinking before 2017s, 2016s and 2015s varies from Domaine to Domaine.

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