Refined New $24 Northern Rhône Syrah: “A Return to Classicism”

Blackberry, nutmeg, and pepper -- a perfectly-balanced Syrah under $5/glass.

Praise continues to pour in for the Domaine Patrick & Christophe Bonnefond. Their Northern Rhône reds are pure syrah, and display an exquisite balance of texture, fruit, subtlety and depth. The wines continue to improve each year — Josh Raynolds of Vinous declared his tasting this year “the single most impressive set of bottlings I have had here.”

Bonnefond’s just-arrived 2019 Côte Rôties and Condrieus are magnificent — they’re not cheap, but we think they’re worth every penny. We had to buy Bonnefond’s 2020 Syrah before tasting it this year (something we very rarely do), but on Christophe’s word we bought it anyway, assuming a continuation of his recent spectacular vintages.

Syrah grown in most of the world is bold, rich, smooth and voluminous. In the Northern Rhône the grape takes on a different style: lower alcohol, less mouthfilling, more spice, more energy. Recent scorching summers have blurred this style a bit, but 2020 was a welcome return to normal. Decanter writes of “A reliably fresh, balanced and approachable vintage – a return to classicism.”

Christophe was right about his 2020 Syrah – it’s lighter weight than recent years, but arguably even finer. The nose is spice forward, with black pepper, nutmeg and rosemary – the black fruit is there but taking a back seat to the savory elements. The mouth is gorgeous and refined, with refreshing tension and lovely intensity – it’s perfectly extracted, leaving not an ounce of harshness. Pretty and precise instead of ponderous.

For 2020 at least, the blurring lines between Northern Rhône Syrah and “global” Syrah have snapped into focus – there’s only once place this wine could be made.


Bonnefond Syrah 2020
bottle price: $24

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