Seyssuel Horizontal 2012 vintage
Held at the Stéphane Ogier cellars in Côte Rotie, January 2015 – because as of today there is only one working cellar in Seyssuel, with the great majority of producers taking their grapes back to Côte Rotie to vinifiy with the rest of their wines. Where there were 2011s shown also, I have listed them after the 2012s.
The three communes of Seyssuel, Chasse-sur-Rhone and Vienne make up the Terre de Vienne wine region that is located on the other bank of the Rhone from Côte Rotie. Thanks to a sharp bend in the river by the town of Vienne, it benefits from the same south exposure as Côte Rotie, protected from the northern wind, although the slopes are slightly less steep than Côte Brun, and more in line with Côte Blonde. The soil is a schist block (more specifically mica-schist, which glitters beautifully in the sunshine) lying along the eastern borders of the Massif Central mountain range as the Alps start their ascent. Currently bottled under IGP Collines Rhodaniennes, but looking for more specific recognition within the Rhone wines family.
They are the very first vineyards that you reach when leaving Lyon heading south to the Rhone, with the heart of the best quality vines (and the most densely planted of the three communes) in Seyssuel. The vineyards were planted by the Romans from the 2nd century BC (and the area was colonized by the Romans 60 years before Julius Cesar arrived for this Guerre des Gaulles) but have lain fallow since the early 20th century.
Currently 13 winemakers are growing vines here, with 12 of them also making wine in Côte Rotie. A 14th is currently planting. The vines are young right now, as the first ones were planted in 1995/1996 and the majority only within the last five years. Going on this tasting, the potential for future growth in quality is huge. Inevitably with such young plantings, most of these wines are intended to be drunk within the next five years, and will offer great pleasure as they have silky fine tannins and very pretty floral notes. As the vines age, expect their seriousness and ageing potential in bottle to rise.
The winemakers are currently applying for AOC status, but it is in its early stages, and they are not even certain if they will try for AOC Seyssuel or AOC Terres de Viennae (the name of the association created for the producers tasted here). The main concern is that if the area does not achieve AOC, there is nothing to protect it from the planting of other grape varieties than Syrah and Viognier (the traditional varieties according to old texts they have found, and perfect for the soils), nor avoiding planting on the less suitable soils.
Asiaticus Pierre Gaillard IGP Collines Rhodaniennes 2012
One of the three creators of Vins de Vienne (the wine label created for the original replantings in Seyssuel in the 1990s) and still active in the VdeV project, Pierre Gaillard bottles these vines separately, and has named it after the Roman senator Asiaticus, one of the originators for the very first plantings in the Vienne region 2000 years ago. Right off on the nose this offers a lovely crisp sour cherry, high aromatics. 100% syrah with 18 months in barrel, 50% new. On the palate, this is very much dominated by fruit rather than oak, light and delicate in structure, and very juicy, a good introduction to the region. 12%abv. 86
Lucidus, Lucide & Chapoutier IGP Collines Rhodaniennes 2012
A joint venture between Michel Chapoutier as winemaker, and Paul Lucidi who owns the vines on the first vineyard slopes that you come across as you had south from Lyon, in the commune of Chasse-sur-Rhone. Again lovely fresh alcohol at 12.5%, this is a little more powerful, less floral than the first one, good texture and firm tannins. An enjoyably upright finish, good persistency while still being very much in the drinkable, easy going range. Excellent. 100% syrah, aged in Burgundy barrels with 20% new oak. 87
Lucidus Lucide & Chapoutier IGP Collines Rhodannienes 2011
Liquorice, sour cherry, this has edges, perhaps feel the north wind blowing a little more clearly even though 2011 as a whole was a warmer vintage than 2012. Like the definition on the finish, and get the tannins here giving a lovely overall feeling of weight - it clearly benefits from the extra year ageing. 88
Pierre Jean Villa Esprit d'Antan IGP Collines Rhodaniennes 2012
Villa was director of Vins de Vienne for several years but is now fully making his own wine. This one – again 100% syrah – is very elegant, soft, floral, round. Not sweet exactly but generous, reflecting the warm microclimate that they have in Seyssuel, even more so that Côte Rotie in places. The whole effect is of pleasingly floating autumnam fruit, suspended by the impressive levels of acidity that I have so far found in all of the wines. 87
Pierre Jean Villa, Esprit d'Antan IGP Collines Rhodannienes 2011
Good. Perhaps a little too much oak, but this has good density, clear black fruits, boiled sweets even, those that you only ever had a long car journeys down to the south of France, the purple/blackcurrant ones. This is perhaps a little too polished, but very tasty, again feel that this is playing to its strengths, enjoying the warm microclimate of Seyssuel, plenty to enjoy. 86
Sotanum les Vins de Vienne IGP Collines Rhodaniennes 2012
First vintage of this wine was 1997, this project was the pioneer for replanting Seyssuel, and for seven years Vins de Vienne remained the only producer. The men behind Les Vins de Vienne are Pierre Gaillard, François Villard and Yves Cuilleron, and all three today make their own wine alongside what has grown into a wide range of labels within the VdeV stable. Sotanum vines were planted in 1996 planted up to 10,000 feet per hectare and 100% syrah. This show a lovely round softness, fine tannins, there is real freshness here but it is very prettily dressed up. 12.5%abv again, love the alcohol levels on these wines, so easy to enjoy, great range to have in your cellar for quality everyday drinking. They don’t have huge length perhaps, but do have some gentle build up in the mouth, white pepper spice, very pretty. 88
La Batie IGP Collines Rhodaniennes 2012
Maryline and Christophe Billon planted their vines at the feet of the ruins of Château de la Bâtie. 12.5%abv, 100% syrah again, this one is highly aromatic, really caresses on the first nose with soft floral aromas. These are very young vines, 2014 is their fourth vintage, making it unsurprising that you don’t get huge persistency here, but considering they just went into production in 2010, and already have silky, caressing, seductive wine, there is encouraging potential here. Full de-stalking, which translates into these soft tannins, even with 24 months in barrel. 87
Ripa Sinstra, Yves Cuilleron, IGP Collines Rhodaniennes 2012
That lovely northern Rhone syrah typicity on the nose, clearly ripe dark fruits, but get those tingling lovely fingers of minerality. This is from Yves Cuilleron and has a gourmet edge also, touches of caramel, 100% barrel aged for 18 months with 50% new oak but used for a quick Condrieu (so white wine) maceration for maybe one month before putting in the reds, a technique that is used to soften the oak a little (and round out the whites before they go in vat). Good powerful finish. 30% stalks. 12.5%abv. 89
Ripa Sinastra IGP Collines Rhodannienes 2011
With an extra year of ageing, the tannins are even more fine, they have lengthened, softened, this has a lovely light touch, fresh and elegant syrah, highly recommended. 91.
Pulcha Terra IGP Collines Rhodaniennes 2012
The winemaker for this bottle is Hervé Avallet, relatively new to Côte Rotie and Condrieu 5 or so years ago, as he changed career when he hit 40 from IT to wine. His wife is from Seyssuel so they bought some land here a few years ago and began planting (he trained up with the Vins de Vienne). Whole bunch fermentation, with stalks. This is very different style, almost rustic and for me lacks a little of the finesse that the others have, feels less polished. But again love the nose, excellent juicy gooseberry and wild cherry, and this offers good structure that needs a little while to soften. 12%abv. Avallet is planting currently in Saint Joseph, and is certainly a name to watch. 84.
Pulchra Terra IGP Collines Rhodannienes 2011
Again this is showing a rustic style, still touches of brett on the nose (bear in mind I tasted all the 201A2s, then the 2011s, and the impression held true both times°. This is an enjoyable wine, but don’t feel it will age hugely – make the most of its charming supple fruit now and over the next few years. 84.
L'Ame Soeur Syrah de Seyssuel M&S Ogier IGP Collines Rhodaniennes 2012
Tasting this wine over the summer was the reason that I made the trip to Seyssuel in the first place. Whole bunch press on around 30%, so vinified with stalks, the rest without, just to keep a sense of structure and acidity because the climate here is a little hotter than Côte Rotie. This has clear persistency, and very soft white pepper, together with a wonderful wild cherry syrah signature. Love this (can see why it's sold out annoyingly). So juicy you could easily finish the glass. Around 30% goes to export (perhaps approximately same across all these wines, because they are well known names even though the region itself is pretty much unknown). Touch of viognier used in the vinification also. 12.5%abv. 18 months in barrel, 20% new. Natural yeasts. Highly recommended. 91.
L'Ame Soeur IGP Collines Rhodannienes 2011
The elegance that Stéphane Ogier brings out in his wines is immediately obvious. Less concentrated than the 2011, this is slightly more generous, higher alcohol, more gourmet. A little more complexity in the 2012 for me, but these are seriously enjoyable wines, can't wait to taste them as the vines get older. 13%abv. 89
Serinae, Alain Paret IGP Collines Rhodaniennes 2012
This one, from Condrieu/Côte Rotie winemaker Alain Paret, is still in barrel, as it undergoes a particularly long aging of three years. The only one in this tasting not yet bottled (so even the 2011 which we have here also is not yet in bottle – something which apparently was a traditional system for the region back before the vines died out after Phylloxera and the First World War). 12.5%abv, with very clear liquorice, this is powerful with a pretty hint of elegance coming from 5% viognier. Well-ripened fruit, this is good and ambitious. Lunar calendar, natural yeasts, no temperature control during vinification – this is old school winemaking although 100% new oak (wooden vats not barrels). Not in the same model as the others though, which makes it less interesting if you are trying to establish a family signature for Seyssuel. 86
Seul en Scène IGP Collines Rhodaniennes 2012
From François Villard, the third member of the Val de Vienne triumverate, again with his own plot of vines (I think they began in 2006 with 11 hectares, then shortly afterwards took around one hectare each for their own wines). Villard leaves at least 50% of stalks in for the vinification. Lovely aromatics again, get that silky elegance of Seyssuel. Lovely floral, violet edge to this. It is well extracted – certainly you feel a little more substance here than in some, and I am not surprised to see that it has reached 13.1%abv, but all has been carefully done. Very tiny touch of brett on finish, but only so as to give a kiss from the Rhone. Good wine, should age a little longer than some here, think 10 to 15 years. 89-90
Seul en Scène, Francois Villard IGP Collines Rhodannienes 2011
Wonderful finesse in the tannins, this has that real generosity of the vintage. This is a well made, confident wine, would be popular no doubt, good plush grain of the tannins. 13.1%abv. 88
Saxeolum IGP Collines Rhodaniennes 2012
This is the Roman name of Seyssuel apparently, and means little rocks. The main winemaker here is Louis Cheze, although he has three other investors/associates in the form of Laurent and Pascal Marthouret and Georges Treynard. A wonderful floral nose, with a hit of violet and soft cherry fruits, then a lovely elegant backbone. Nose is excellent, and get attractive gamey/smokey notes on the finish. 100% new oak for two years. First vintage was 2003, so the vines are starting to approach maturity. Low yield, direct sorting in the vineyards, full southern exposure. Another relatively long ageing example. Unflitered. 88
Sixtus, IGP Collines Rhodaniennes 2011
The second wine of Saxeolum, still 100% syrah with just 10% new oak, 40% 2_3 year old barrels and the rest in stainless steel. Only the biggest estates in Seysuuel make a second wine as most are tiny – here there are 8ha. Beautifully soft, this is very gentle, easy to drink, but spreads a little, doesn’t maintain its form to the end of the palate. Still aged in barrel, very northern expression of syrah with this lovely lift on the finish. Unfiltered. 84.
L'Encor, Domaine les Serines d'Or IGP Collines Rhodaniennes 2012
A partnership between Jerome Ogier (no relation to Stéphane) and Damien Robelet, these are the only ones except Paret not to make a Côte Rotie! They are the only ones also who live and vinify in Seyssuel, and don't make a wine outside of the area. Pretty nose, this opens up nicely, lovely soft silky tannins, love how fine these wines are as a whole. A little rustic on the finish, but pretty notes of dark black cherries. 14 months in oak barrels, 100% syrah, 12.5%abv. 85.
Domaine les Serines d'Or IGP Collines Rhodannienes 2011
Jerome Ogier/Damien Robelet. Here get some good depth of fruit, fresh acidity, firm tannins without being heavy. And again a highly palatable alcohol level of 12.5%, very rare to go past 13%abv because syrah in the northern Rhone just doesn’t go too high. Even more true in Seyssuel – the north of the north. Touch of viognier in the vinificaiton, right from first attack this has a punch, liquorice, wet stones, it's a good wine, and the slight shortness on the finish should again improve as the vines age. 87.