AMA Tasting Report
Côte-Rôtie 2018 and 2019

AMA Tasting Report – Côte-Rôtie 2018 and 2019 - Alexandre MA

When I said I was leaving for the Rhone Valley to prepare for my tasting report, I received many messages from domestic importers urging more. Everyone wants to know what wines from the popular Côte-Rôtie appellation are the ones to buy.


No problem, here we go.


But before we get started, I must emphasize that the Côte-Rôtie in China are mainly La La La and the Northern Rhône Three Musketeers (except for a small group of consumers), which represent only part of the Côte-Rôtie characteristics.


This time, I’d like to provide you with a feast of Côte-Rôtie, some of them may turn your perception of Côte-Rôtie upside down, but they are all outstanding in their respective fields. You can check out the specific performance of each wine in the annual paid content on my website, and today I just want to share with you what I learned and felt during this visit.


Opinion #1: There’s a mounting tendency for whole bunch fermentation

When the influences from the Parker era subsided, the Côte-Rôtie wineries started “the Renaissance of whole bunch fermentation”, especially the new generation of winemakers born in the 80s and 90s, who are absorbed in stems to the point of obsession. Domaine Chambeyron, for example, who has always been known for his de-stemming, uses 30% whole bunch fermentation for his Chavaroche single vineyard, and Vignobles Levet has gone so far as to use 100% whole bunch fermentation for his flagship La Péroline.

In my opinion, it doesn’t really matter how many stems are used, but what kind of stems should be chosen? Pierre Jean Villa told me that he used 100% whole bunch fermentation in his Fongeant, but removed all the unwanted green parts of the stems so that when we drink this wine, we can hardly feel any trace of stem but elegance.


Opinion #2: Intense barrel aging is fine, but they must be perfectly integrated

I’m not averse to new barrels, 100% new oaks either, as long as they are able to make it “seamless”. This time I found that some wineries that burst onto the scene in the 90’s were still going for new oak + long aging, and though the structure on the palate was still powerful, but the Syrah’s unique aromas were not there at all.


Frankly speaking, no one can surpass E.Guigal in the race of new oak and long-time barrel aging, so what’s the point of going through all the trouble to be stolen the thunder? It’s better to work on a new barrel ratio that suits you.


On the contrary, some wineries are so ambitious to try 0% new oak. While they do have a beautiful clarity of aromatic expression in their youth, they can hardly achieve the level of complexity and layering on the palate that Stéphane Ogier has. (Stéphane Ogier chose 600 liter oak to age the Condrieu first and then the Côte-Rôtie the following year.)


After all, the percentage of new barrels really doesn’t matter, in Côte-Rôtie nowadays, the winners are those who can age the barrels like the ladies’ “invisible make-up”. The Domaine Duclaux Maison Rouge is excellent in this respect, with 40% new barrels, but no trace of oak throughout, full of transparency and ultimate elegance.


Opinion #3: The popularity of single-vineyard

When E. Guigal launched La Mouline in the 1960s, he would never have imagined that today’s Côte-Rôtie would be so many single-vineyard wines. While I personally love the idea of single-vineyard, I always feel that we can’t go too extreme in Côte-Rôtie. In other words, you can’t make a single vineyard wine just for a label with a single-vineyard name on it. Especially for those single vineyards that are not so exceptional in terms of terroir. For example, during this tasting, I found that some single-vineyard prestige cuvées were not as complex and varied as their classic cuvée blended with different vineyards.


Well, this is what I have learned this time.


Last but not least, I would like to end this article by outlining the characteristics of the vintage of 2019 that I tasted this time in a few sentences.


Côte-Rôtie 2019 had a particularly windy spring, especially the strong winds during the flowering period broke some shoots. Experienced a really dry and hot July, water deficiency was quite a common issue for all wineries. The turning point of this vintage was the 100mm of precipitation in August and the ideal diurnal temperature from mid-August to late August. So we get riper fruits and intenser tannins in the 2019 vintage. For those wineries that use strong macerations and a high percentage of whole bunch, it must have the right balance on the palate. In contrast, the vintage of 2018 was a similarly hot vintage, but without the water deficiency in 2019. The fruit is ripe and plump, and the body is round and mellow. Overall, I think the vintage of 2018 in Côte-Rôtie has a better performance in general.


In conclusion, I want you to pay attention to the Côte-Rôtie from now on, because its future is today’s Burgundy. This is the statement I made here, and time will prove it in the future.


By Alexandre MA






*Among the wines tasted, only wines above 90 POINTS  are listed

*Among the wines tasted, only wines above 90 POINTS are listed

Colour Vintage Wine Ama Point
2018 E.Guigal La Landonne - Red 98+
2018 Domaine Georges Vernay Maison Rouge - Red 98
2018 Stéphane Ogier Lancement - Red 98
2019 Stéphane Ogier La Belle Hélène - Red 97+
2020 Domaine Pierre Jean Villa Fongeant - Red 97
2018 E.Guigal La Mouline - Red 97
2018 Stéphane Ogier La Belle Hélène - Red 96+
2019 Domaine Duclaux (Benjamin & David) Maison-Rouge - Red 96
2019 Domaine Georges Vernay Blonde du Seigneur - Red 96
2018 E.Guigal La Turque - Red 96
2018 Stéphane Ogier Lieu-Dit Fongeant - Red 96
2018 Stéphane Ogier Lieu-Dit La Viallière - Red 96
2019 Stéphane Ogier Lancement - Red 96
2018 Stéphane Ogier Lieu-Dit Bertholon - Red 96
2019 Domaine Duclaux (Benjamin & David) Coteaux de Tupin - Red 95+
2019 Domaine Bonnefond (Patrick et Christophe) Les Rochains - Red 95
2017 Domaine Christophe Semaska Lancement - Red 95
2019 Vignobles Levet Maestria - Red 95
2019 Domaine Bonnefond (Patrick et Christophe) Dans Les Vignes de Mon Père - Red 94+
2019 Domaine Chambeyron Chavaroche - Red 94+
2019 Domaine Duclaux (Benjamin & David) La Germine - Red 94+
2018 Stéphane Ogier La Côte-Blonde - Red 94+
2019 Vignobles Levet La Péroline - Red 94+
2019 Domaine Chambeyron L'Angeline - Red 94
2019 Domaine du Monteillet - Stéphane Montez Arrêts - Red 94
2020 Domaine Pichon Rozier - Red 94
2020 Domaine Pierre Jean Villa Carmina - Red 94
2018 E.Guigal Château d'Ampuis - Red 94
2018 Stéphane Ogier Lieu-Dit Montmain - Red 94
2018 Domaine de Bonserine La Garde - Red 93+
2019 Domaine Bonnefond (Patrick et Christophe) Côte Rozier - Red 93
2019 Domaine de Bonserine La Viallière - Red 93
2018 Domaine Jasmin Oléa - Red 93
2018 Stéphane Ogier Lieu-Dit Côte Bodin - Red 93
2018 Stéphane Ogier Lieu-Dit Cognet - Red 93
2019 Vignobles Levet Améthyste - Red 93
2019 Yves Cuilleron Lieu-Dit La Viallière - Red 93
2019 Maison Clusel-Roch Champon - Red 92+
2019 Domaine Bonnefond (Patrick et Christophe) Colline de Couzou - Red 92
2018 Domaine Burgaud - Red 92
2020 Domaine Burgaud - Red 92
2019 Domaine Chambeyron La Chavarine - Red 92
2018 Domaine Christophe Semaska Fleur de Montlys - Red 92
2019 Domaine Duclaux (Benjamin & David) La Chana - Red 92
2019 Domaine Garon Sybarine - Red 92
2020 Domaine Graeme et Julie Bott - Red 92
2019 Domaine Jasmin La Giroflarie - Red 92
2020 Domaine Niero Eminence - Red 92
2019 Domaine Pichat Les Grandes Places - Red 92
2020 Domaine Pichon Promesse - Red 92
2018 Stéphane Ogier Lieu-Dit Leyat - Red 92
2018 Stéphane Ogier Lieu-Dit But de Mont - Red 92
2019 Domaine Christophe Semaska Château de Montlys - Red 91
2019 Domaine de Bonserine La Sarrasine - Red 91
2019 Domaine Pichat Champon's - Red 90+
2019 Domaine André François Gerine - Red 90
2018 E.Guigal Côte-Rôtie Brune & Blonde de Guigal - Red 90
2019 Maison Clusel-Roch Les Schistes - Red 90
2019 Yves Cuilleron Madinière - Red 90