Northern Rhone Syrah

The wine I drink most is CA Syrah.
Although I have never had a true northern Rhone Syrah I think in tasting many CA Syrah that my palate leans that way.
Zotovich is one that comes to mind.
I recently received an offer for some Northern Rhones. Some are high end Cote Rotie and Cornas.
Here are some in my price range and more likely to be something I can drink now:

2011 Becheras Saint Joseph Cuvée Tour Joviac $32.95 per bottle

2013 Domaine Faury Saint Joseph Vieilles Vignes $34.95 per bottle

Even at those prices I can get really nice CA Syrah so I wonder if either of these would give me a good perspective of Northrn Rhone.

The Faury is an excellent wine. It will be lighter bodied and more red-fruited than most CA Syrahs, which I consider to be positives.

I haven’t had Zotovich, but California Syrah is quite diverse generally speaking so it’s difficult to surmise what you may or may not like in Northern Rhone. Northern Rhone can be quite diverse too, particularly across vintages. Given the right circumstances Syrah can be aromatic, ethereal and everything unlike many modern California Syrahs.

Why not give it a try though? Faury would be a good place to start. St. Joseph can be variable given the size of the AOC. Crozes-Hermitage is another, less expensive place to start. J.L. Chave makes a negociant wine for Crozes Hermitage and St. Joseph. Louis Barruol makes some negociant Northern Rhones as well - a 2011 Crozes Hermitage was downright pretty and was reminiscent of Burgundy.

Some Southern Rhones might make for a good bridge as well, even if they’re not varietal wines. Gigondas, Vacqueryras, Ventoux and other Rhones bring many of those savory, meaty characteristics with a bit more fruit and density.

I recommend a decent decant (1-2 hrs) on any youngish N. Rhones. Faury’s IGP Collines Rhodaniennes is a great value play and a good introduction to N. Rhone.

With age, preferably 15 years, is when the great N. Rhones start to really shine.

to my palate, northern rhone syrah is the most different to its CA counterparts than say, cabernet or pinot.

if you’re used to CA syrahs, i would say the great majority of northern rhone syrah will come off as lean and overly dirty smelling.

you should try faury’s regular syrah which is excellent and under $20 before the VV which really does require cellar time to blossom and can be quite stern in its youth.

This gives me a thought…if you have access to the 2013 Domaine Jamet Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes, loaded with white pepper, it’s quite good and a very nice QPR. Should be around $25.

I’m probably in the minority here, but when I was learning how to taste, I would always try to find two opposite styles that were near the top of the heap to get a sense of what the area can offer… Often times the value plays can be shells of what the best have to offer. If you like the super solid choices, I’d then say to go back and find value plays that compare favorably QPRwise in your view. It’s not like you have to start with the Lala wines or anything…

And if you can ever get your hands on ‘Cayas’ from Germanier (Vallais, Switzerland), just buy it, it’s bangin and when I get it from Geneva it’s normally around 40 Francs (Id happily pay 3-4 times this)

Agree with this. Faury is a N. Rhone that tends toward a little more forward fruit, less funk and stems, so could be a very good introduction to someone with a Cali palate.

I suppose it depends on who’s determining what’s at the top of the heap. Depending on which publication you’re looking at, when you get into the upper bandwidth (read: points) you may find that the wines actually taste quite similar. I think it’s quite easy to find distinctive wines in multiple regions if you stay away from the very large domaines or producers like Chapoutier and Delas. That’s not a slight to those producers per se, but they may show more of an international sensibility. The aforementioned JL Chave Selections and Saint Cosme, definitely fall into the larger producer category considering the size of these regions, but they merely represent one quality data-point at a reasonable price.

One other factor when considering some of these “QPR” wines is that may show more fragrance and accessibility younger. Just as an introduction to Barolo may start with Langhe Nebbiolo over highly rated, richer more accessible Barolo, it’s fair to consider some relatively more humble Crozes Hermitage and St. Joseph as an introduction to Northern Rhone.

I also like the suggestions for Crozes. Alain Graillot’s wines are also good examples of N Rhone syrah.

The same supplier also has the 2013 Faury Syrah IGP Collines Rhodaniennes, so I will give that a go.


The Faury VV St. Joseph is a go to for me. As noted it’s clean, but to my taste it is also very pure. I prefer it, and Alain Graillot, to many of the bigger names.

Not talking about the 99-100 pointers, I just think that producers on the low end of anywhere make (for the most part) very generic tasting bland wines which I like to help people avoid at all costs (without telling people to never drink wines under $30)… I’d hope a little more research went into that than just reading a descending points list of a major publication and picking towards the top…That being said, points get a very bad rep on this board, when they can be immensely useful… I can’t tell you how many times I see a note on here without a point next to it and throw it out as useless because reading into someone’s written enthusiasm is a fools errand.

that’s the one.

if you like that wine, come back and we can make better recommendations. serve on the cool side.

Its in my cooler now. Finishing off a bottle of Grenache this weekend so probably won’t open it until later this week.
Will report back how I like it.
I do like my reds on the cooler side.

Completely agree.
We had the '13 Vv recently and it was really tight, even with a decant.
But man I love that wine.

The big houses (Delas, Chapoutier, Guigal etc.) do have some good single vineyard offerings that can be thrilling, and they are usually easier to find, assuming you can get shipping. But I like most of their negociant stuff too, and think those are better bets to start. Another producer to consider might be Jean Luc Columbo.

If you can find them, 2009 and 2010 are particularly good in the N. Rhone, and might still be floating around retail channels.

As I get older, I find that I love the way Rhones evolve. They are so much more interesting with age.

So we had this the other night.
Very pretty nose.
There was hint of cinnamon, a very light weight and elegant wine.
It reminded a lot of Arnot Roberts North Coast syrah in color and taste profile but the AR definitely has more intensity to it.
At this price point I could definitely buy some more bottles but it was a bit light and would be nice to have something with more to it.
I am wondering if the Vieilles Vignes would be a good option or if there might be something else to consider.
It seems the price gets steep really fast on Northern Rhones.

Joel - not for nothing but how can you say your palate leans towards N. Rhone if you haven’t had any? What’s the point in trying to categorize yourself? There’s no particular virtue associated with the N. Rhone, although some of their wines are mighty fine.

I agree with Taylor - there are many styles in CA, actually many more than there are in the N. Rhone, which makes a lot of sense if you figure CA is the size of France and the N. Rhone is just one spot within it.

CA has Alban and SQN as well as Edmund St. John and Halcon and Meyer Family. From France, try a few from Crozes-Hermitage and St. Joseph and Pic St. Loup - there’s nice Syrah coming from those places that isn’t as expensive as Hermitage or Cote Rotie. My suggestion is to look around and try a few. Try those mentioned but don’t limit yourself - try more. And FWIW, IMHO CA is making some really good Syrah these days. I love the N. Rhone but I’m really happy with a lot of Syrah from CA and WA.

I think Faury VV at 30-some dollars is an ideal introductory “good perspective of Northern Rhone”. Whereas the trend over the last several years has been towards $50+ St Josephs, the Faury price has almost-stubbornly held, i.e. the '09s I’ve been drinking lately still have their $37 price tag. It’s fairly structured but with exuberant fruit, I think they drink quite well in the first year or so of release, and make a good “house wine”…I normally go through a case or so within that first year. Enjoy with the same sort of meal you might have with a current release Ridge Geyserville. (Monier is another good producer that I’ve seen in this range, but local availability has been spotty. Gonon is a board darling and quite worthy of the step-up price tag.)

At some point if you are charmed by the intense directness of good old-vine St Joseph, there are several Cornas (e.g. Gilles, Clape Renaissance) and Cote Rotie (Rostaing Ampodium/classique, Levet Chavaroche) in the $50-70 range you can graduate to trying. To me these tend to be less direct and more subtle and interesting.