Richard recommends a northern Rhône Syrah that delivers great bang for your buck.
- 2018: from €29, 36 Swiss francs, £127 per case of six ib
- older vintages: from €27, £24, $30, 400 Swiss francs per case of 12, 235 Danish kroner, HK$1,805 per case of six, SG$400.69 per case of six, NZ$69.50, 447.70 Norwegian kroner
One of the reasons Syrah should be the variety of the decade (see also this previous wine of the week) is a quality-to-price ratio that puts the likes of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir to shame.
My case in point: Domaine du Tunnel's St-Joseph. My score for the 2018 vintage, tasted blind among hundreds of other northern Rhône Syrahs, was 17.5, putting it in the top 20% of northern Rhône reds, alongside such esteemed names as Sorrel, Guigal and J-L Chave. So when it was offered en primeur at the equivalent of £21.16 per bottle in bond, I put my name down immediately. (The Wine Society's Rhône offer is open until Tuesday 18 February).
Older vintages are similarly well scored, and just as good value. The 2014, scored 17 by Jancis, is available at £24 from The Wine Society and $35.99 at Bowery & Vine in New York, for example.
Price is only a part of the story, however. The style of the wine is both classic Syrah and classic St-Joseph. A common descriptor from the ten tasting notes in our database is 'meaty' or 'charred beef', characteristics that give Syrah its carnivorous savoury quality. It is also described as smooth, plush and svelte, all of which reflects the lighter structure for which St-Joseph is renowned. The result is a classic French red with instantly recognisable personality that doesn't require the extensive ageing of Cornas or Hermitage.
Domaine du Tunnel farms 11 hectares (27 acres) of vines across four appellations in the northern Rhône, and have until now been better known for their St-Péray whites. The estate's name refers to the old train tunnel that proprietor Stéphane Robert refurbished in 2014, and which is now used for winemaking and maturation (as the photo above shows, taken from their website).
Winemaking is straightforward, with grapes sourced from three adjacent villages that form the heart of this widely spread appellation, opposite the hill of Hermitage. No new oak is used for their St-Joseph, giving the fruit maximum opportunity to express itself.
Buy this exemplary St-Joseph now, while it still represents outstanding value, because if the Rhône goes the way of Bordeaux and Burgundy, then prices will only go up.