Today, Côte-Rôtie is enjoying a comeback. These once-neglected steep slopes overlooking the Rhône are now highly sought after by vignerons who recognize the potential for a delicious and distinctive expression of Syrah. Among them is Louis Barruol, proprietor of Château de Saint Cosme in Gigondas, who has developed a small project purchasing fruit from some of the finest terroirs upriver and crafting several micro-cuvées of traditional Côte-Rôtie. This entails selecting sustainably grown Serine (an old clone of Syrah) from top vineyard sites and vinifying in neutral wood with the grape stems, as was once common practice, before an unfined and unfiltered bottling. The lieu-dit Besset lies at the top of the slope, where cooling breezes offset the richness endowed by the full southern exposure in a warm vintage. From the classic aromas of graphite, black fruit, and roasted spice, to the total finesse of its tannins, this is Côte-Rôtie at its best.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch