Domaine René Rostaing Côte-Rôtie Côte Blonde 2011, Rhône Valley

95% Syrah – 5% Viognier. Côte Rôtie – literally ‘roasted slope’ – is the most northerly of the Rhône Valley’s great appellations. The vineyards are spread over 250 hectares (617 acres) of steep, south-facing slopes along the western bank of the Rhône. The soil is mostly mica-schist, but this is enriched in different lieux-dits (individual vineyard sites) by silex, clay, limestone and iron oxides. Côte Blonde, the highest expression of the appellation, reveals its character in exotic touches of tobacco, cinnamon and violets on a sturdy frame, gripped by fine tannins. Smoothness and length complete the work of the terroir. The soils of the Cote Blonde, known locally as arzel, is poor, mineral and filtering – the result of the slow decomposition of the shistose bedrock. The grapes are hand picked and the approach to winemaking straightforward and non-interventionist; so that they can be sure each glass of wine reflects the typicity that they’re looking for. Rostaing’s winemaking is a mix of tradition and modernism such as total or partial destemming and the fermentation in roto-fermenters. The two-year ageing process is carried out in 228 liters Burgundy barrels and in demi-muids (600 liters), which offers an interesting wood/wine rate. The part of new wood remains minimal so that it does not interfere with the terroir nor alter the fruit purity.