Wine With Kat: Traipsing through the N. Rhone - Rene Rostaing!
Crush + Press: Cote-Rotie's Rene Rostaing
Not counting the much larger Guigal domaine, René Rostaing is the closest thing to a true cult star that Côte-Rôtie has yet produced. He started out in 1971 with just 1.16 acres of Côte-Rôtie vineyards, split between the Cote Blonde and La Landonne on the Cote Brune. Since that time, his holding have increased considerably; he inherited collectively 25 acres from his father-in-law Albert Dervieux-Thaize who was president of the Côte-Rôtie growers association for 33 years and from his uncle Marius Gentaz-Dervieux. This vineyard expansion enabled Rene to quit his day job in 1991 and to devote himself full time to winemaking.
In the late 1990's, Rene and his wife purchased a modest estate, Domaine Puech Chaud, in the Coteaux du Langudoc near Nimes. The cool micro-climate and limestone gravel of this zine produces one of the Midi's most beautiful Syrah-based wines. Apart from Guigal, Rostaing may have the finest vineyard holdings in Côte-Rôtie. He works 20+ ha, in 14 lieux-dits, including 1.6 ha in La Landonne, 1.5 ha in Fongeant, and 1.2 ha in La Viallière. A majority of the vines were planted in the 1960s and 1970s, but some of the Viallière vines exceed 100 years old! In addition, he has a choice 1.0 ha in Condrieu, and works a 10 ha site in the Côteaux du Languedoc. In 2015, René’s son, Pierre, took the reins at an estate that now boasts 20+ acres of the finest vineyards in and around Côte Rôtie. And, he shares his father’s deep reverence for Côte Rôtie’s traditions.
Over his long career, René experimented with other “modern” techniques, but the results convinced him to reject the vast majority as antithetical to Côte Rôtie’s essence. Pierre was able to experiment further through stages in Washington, California and in France; he too came away convinced of the wisdom of his forebearers. . The classical regime that the estate employs today would certainly be recognized by their ancestors. The Rostaing's use up to 100% of the stems - believing they contribute to Côte Rôtie’s ineffable perfume. Macerations last from 7 to 20+ days, and the wines enjoy a long élevage in a mix of barrels and time-honored pièce for aging, so that no more than 15% of a given vintage sees new wood. He uses traditional techniques and modern technology, adapting his methods to the vintage.
The Rostaing wines rank—in our view and the view of others—among the very best of classic Côte Rôtie. They are wines of consistency and sophistication that are true to their origins - classic Cote-Rotie style and an extra richness of the South, elegant, yet concentrated; expressive, but subtle; hedonistic, but cerebral. And with Pierre Rostaing now in day-to-day control, the future for this estate has never looked brighter.
Wine Advocate 12/2019
"Young Pierre Rostaing has been on a roll, making some of the best wines in Côte Rôtie from his family's choice parcels in La Landonne, La Côte Blonde and Côte Brune. It's my impression that the quality of the blended Ampodium is also reaching new heights, although it cannot compete with the near perfection achieved by the single-vineyard wines. The 2018s, said Rostaing, are 'rich, aromatic and expressive.' The (mostly) bottled 2017s come across as more tannic and muscular than the 2016s, a difference Rostaing attributes to yields that were about 15% to 20% lower than the preceding vintage. The top wines should easily last for two decades. Finally, don't neglect the IGP and Languedoc offerings being made by Rostaing. Sure, by comparison to the family's top offerings from Côte Rôtie, they're mere teases, but they're tasty, fun-to-drink wines that typically sell for realistic prices."
"Although René Rostaing is officially retired and his 36-year-old son, Pierre, is now fully in charge of the domaine, he still has a presence here, since, as he told me, he lives “just across the street and it’s a small village.” From what I’ve seen, Pierre’s wines, these 2016s being a prime example, show an even greater degree of finesse than those made by his father, which were very elegant themselves. One could understandably attribute that to the general character of the 2016 vintage, but I also saw it come through in the 2017s and 2018s that I tasted from barrel before going through the 2016s. If Rostaing wasn’t on your shopping list before – and it should have been – then it really ought to be on there now."
"Because of the frighteningly low yields (40% of normal) at Côte-Rôtie in 2014, René Rostaing opted to make a single bottling, his entry-level Ampodium, but 'not because of a lack of quality,' he said. 'On the contrary, it's a very good vintage,' one that he compares to 2006. To illustrate his point, Rostaing opened a bottle of his '06 Côte Blonde at the conclusion of our tasting. It is showing impressive finesse and detail, displaying lively red and dark berry character and suave finishing florality. It's just hitting its drinking window, in my opinion, but Rostaing says it's fully ready to drink, adding that he has 'always preferred to err on the side of youth when drinking any red wine. When they get old, even if they're from a great terroir and a great vintage, they've mostly lost their distinction and just taste like really good aged red wine.' When I reminded him that he told me the same thing when I first visited here in July 1989, he laughed and said that he likes to be consistent and isn't quick to change his opinions. He also pointed out that "7%, maybe 8% new oak is the rule here, and no oak for Condrieu, because the goal is purity and elegance, and wood is a distraction."
Wine Advocate 2/2015
"René Rostaing’s Côte Rôtie Côte Blonde is the smallest production of Rene’s three cuvees (Ampodium, Landonne and Côte Blonde) and comes from his roughly 1 hectare (roughly 2.5 acres) of holdings in the Côte Blonde lieu-dit. This vines here were planted both in 1934, and then later in 1970-1971. It’s the only cuvee to incorporate Viognier, and this variety makes up roughly 3-5% of the blend. While René destemmed more in the past, today, he keeps destemming to a minimum and aging occurs in mostly older demi-muid, with 15-20% being new. There’s a scant 500 cases in most vintages, and it’s certainly one of the Icon wines from the northern Rhône."
International Wine Cellar 3/2013
"Drawing comparisons of the three most recent vintages, he summed things up this way: '2010 is a perfect balance of sun and terroir, 2009 is more about sun, and 2011 is more about terroir. That's why 2010 is the great one."