Elegant Refreshing Northern Rhône Syrah. $24

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

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.”

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 last year “the single most impressive set of bottlings I have had here.”

Christophe’s 2020 syrah is terrific and calls to mind a ballet dancer – strong and chiseled but quick and light on its feet. 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.

In 2020 the blurring lines between Northern Rhône Syrah and “global” Syrah have snapped into focus – there’s only once place this wine could be made. Time will tell how the 2022 vintage turns out (it hit 101 degrees in the Côte Rôtie yesterday), but this wine at least is a welcome dose of freshness.


Bonnefond Syrah 2020
bottle price: $24

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