The Northern Rhône represents (for now) the northern limit of where Syrah can ripen fully. As with many grapes, the area of northernmost range produces the most elegant and delicate expression of the grape – think South African Shiraz, now picture its opposite.
But recent warmer drier summers have changed the character in frontier regions a bit – in the Northern Rhône the reds have added a bit of weight and intensity. The best winemakers, however, have used this extra ripeness to support (rather than shout out) their classical style. Winemaker Denis Basset of the Domaine Saint Clair is one winemaker who walks this line between tradition and modernity with skill and grace.
Basset’s excellent 2020s are drinking better now than ever. Despite a scorching hot, drought-filled summer, they show excellent freshness – Basset picked early enough to avoid the traps of high alcohol and flabbiness. The gamble paid off, and all three – Etincelle, Fleur Enchantée, and St-Joseph – are carefully structured and full of freshness.
The 2020 Crozes-Hermitage “Fleur Enchantée” is all of 13% alcohol – refreshingly fresh despite its abundant dark fruit. The nose shows clove and blackberry, with black pepper and hints of earth – the oak is barely perceptible. The mouth is young and juicy with dark tannins and plenty of zip. The blackberry/plum fruit joins a fresh minerality and long dusty finish.
This is casual, weeknight Syrah that way overperforms its $5/glass pricetag.
“Fleur Enchantée” 2020
bottle price: $25
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