When it comes to powerful but stylish, mineral-driven Syrah, France's northern Rhône valley provides one-stop shopping, thanks to its clutch of top-flight appellations such as Hermitage, St.-Joseph, Cornas and more. But perhaps no appellation offers more choice or bang for the buck these days than Côte-Rôtie.
Thanks to a cadre of vignerons that has grown and taken over the appellation during the last decade, what once was a one-horse town—that horse being the famous négociant house of E. Guigal—is now a crowded playing field, brimming with quality. With the superb and cellar-worthy 2005 vintage now in stores and the fresh, racy 2006 and 2007 vintages waiting in the wings, this is a great opportunity to put together a building block of rocking juice in your cellar.
When it comes to Côte-Rôtie, knowing a producer's style is key. If you like it extra brawny and mineral-driven in style, with the enticing tug of earth that wine geeks call terroir, look for the Jean-Paul & Jean-Luc Jamet Côte-Rôtie 2005 (scored 96 in Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado's sister publication, $100), Bernard Burgaud Côte-Rôtie 2005 (93, $71) or Domaine Clusel-Roch Côte-Rôtie Les Grandes Places 2005 (95, $105).
If a sleeker, racy, modern-styled version is your Syrah of choice, try to put some Delas Côte-Rôtie La Landonne 2005 (95, $129), Tardieu-Laurent Côte-Rôtie 2005 (95, $78) or St.-Cosme 2005 (94, $75) in your cellar.
Most Côte-Rôtie bottlings are produced in small quantities—just a few hundred cases each—a result of the many small vineyard parcels and vignerons that make up the appellation. The wines also have a loyal following that like to drink the wines—so they rarely turn up down the road via auction. Moving fast when the wines initially arrive in the market is important to secure what you want. But a top Côte-Rôtie with eight to 10 years of age, served alongside a wood-roasted game bird or grilled côte de boeuf, with a side of roasted mushrooms? Now that's the good life.