Grapevine Archive for Cote Rôtie

Tue 08 Mar 2011

1996 Côte-Rôtie

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This was not the easiest vintage. The summer was cool and by the end of August the syrah grape was barely ripe. Disaster loomed. Yet as so often, the weather changed. A stiff mistral began to blow and it barely stopped for three weeks. The skies turned blue; any trace of rot was quickly dried to nothing. The grapes quickly began to turn and concentrate.

A miracle vintage. And yet that greeness, a sure sign that the crop had never completely ripened, remained with the 1996’s and many wines have been marked by high acidity.

A few years ago there were uncomplimentary reports about the vintage in the press. Maybe they were right. I took out a case of Côte-Rôtie from Domaine Ogier and the first bottle tasted tetchy and unfriendly. What to do?

Rhônes keep well and often any particular wine will go through a funny stage in its life when nothing seems right. Well, I kept the remaining 5 bottles. One opened two years ago was already rather good, but the one opened tonight is nothing short of blissful. That unyielding acidic edge has gone and this wine is perfectly balanced and absolutely “à point.”

The occasion was a dish of braised oxtail and the combination was pretty well perfect. I’ve still got two bottles and if I remember, I shall try and drink them over the next couple of years.

Marcel Orford-Williams
Rhône & French Country buyer