One of Northern Rhône's hottest new stars

One of Northern Rhône's hottest new stars
As the evenings get chillier, the days shorter and our thoughts turn to nourishing hot suppers paired with warming, full-bodied reds, the wines of the Rhône come to prominence once more.

We keep hearing that Rhône has gone out of fashion and yet on the front line out there in the vineyards never has there been such a plethora of brilliant, young wine-making talent hard at work. This can only mean one thing: value. There are some particularly exciting things happening in the Northern Rhône - a hot bed of artisan producers with top quality terroir at their disposal. St Joseph is a case in point. The wines here are hand-made from fruit grown on sheer, poor granite hillsides and are produced painstakingly in tiny quantities yet they command no more than the price of a decent Bourgogne from the flat lands.

In our view one of the Northern Rhône’s brightest lights is young Bastien Jolivet, who we discovered on a recent foray to the region.. He owns nine hectares of prime vineyards, located on the steep, high, south-east facing granite slopes of one of the original St Joseph communes, St Jean de Muzols. Bastien’s father always worked the land and produced the crop only to sell it to the local cooperative. After travelling and working within France and abroad, Bastien finally returned home to the family domaine in 2014, his first vintage. Intelligent and passionate about what he does, Bastien is already making startlingly brilliant wines that mix precision and energy with authenticity and character. The winemaking is thoughtful, light-handed and adaptive. A percentage of whole bunches are employed during vinification depending on the plot, vine age and vintage. For young vines grapes are de-stalked. Ageing is for 14-16 months in a mixture of barriques and larger demi-muids, of which rarely more than 10-15% are new. His 2016, a classic, late but ripe vintage mixing fullness of flavour with nerve and minerality, is a triumph. L’Instinct is sensual and lithe enough to be enjoyed young, though we suspect waiting five to six years should reveal its full potential.