The Cotes du Rhone from Andezon has been on our radar for a long time. It was on the front cover of our old printed newsletter at least once (maybe even a rare second time come to think of it). So given our experience thus far with the ‘little’ 2016s in the southern Rhone, we were quite anxious to see how this Eric Solomon staple for more than two decades fared.
The brief background story for those that don’t know this one by now is as follows. Back in 1994, Eric Solomon visited the Vignerons d’Estézargues Co-operative winery and met a young, passionate director/winemaker named Jean-François Nicq. By the end of the day, they had decided on a custom bottling of old-vine Syrah (30-60 year old vines) from one of their best parcels, Andezon, that had been previously sold in bulk to a “very famous producer in the Rhone Valley”. The rest, as they say, is history.
To repeat, unlike most Cotes du Rhones, the Andezon is predominantly Syrah with a little Grenache (up to 10% depending on the vintage, though some will claim it’s all Syrah), unlike the typically Grenache-dominated cuvees from this part of the world. It sees no oak, they use no cultured yeasts, no filtering, no fining and no enzymes during vinification or aging, and only add a small amount of SO2 at bottling. Les Vignerons d’Estézargues has begun to practice ‘natural winemaking’, for those interested in that sort of thing, and have to be one of the only co-ops in the world to do so.
As for the wine itself, the Les Vignerons d’Estezargues Cotes du Rhone Andezon 2016 is certainly the best example of this cuvee we have tasted, and that is saying something. The signature of the vintage is here…deep, riveting fruit, uncommon richness yet with energy and lift. We could go on but the prose of Wine Advocate’s Joe Czerwinski certainly makes the point, “The 2016 Cotes du Rhone Andezon is 100% Syrah, aged entirely in tank. It’s a lush, medium to full-bodied wine bursting with ripe blackberries and blueberries. No, it doesn’t have the peppery spice of Syrah from the northern Rhône, but it does have enough cola-like spicy complexity to warrant an outstanding rating…91 points“
In closing, it is important to make another point we refer to as the ‘theory of relativity’. When a vintage this spectacular comes along, there is a tendency for reviewers to calibrate reviews between wines, and not necessarily factor in the vintage itself. That’s not necessarily a criticism, but it is a fact. People don’t always account for the fact that the whole category is working far above the norm.
The salient point is that better wines in lesser vintages often get higher scores than they should and, in outstanding vintages, the wines don’t necessarily get their due within the broader historical perspective. Pull out this ’91-pointer’ and put it up against similar ‘performers’ from other vintages down the road and this will dominate. The 2016s are that good, and this one will outperform the ‘number’ in the glass. Good times, 2016 continues to look like one of the best vintages we have ever sold .