From €18, $20.95, 22 Swiss francs, £19.75, 179.95 Danish krone per case of 6
While the 2016 Rhône en primeur campaign rumbles on in the background, here's a great example of the quality of this vintage that you can buy and drink right now.
Georges Vernay is a name well known to fans of the northern Rhône. He is credited with saving Condrieu from extinction, and it is white wines for which the eponymous domaine has become famous. Yet their reds are among some of the best of Côte Rôtie, and today's wine of the week gives a glimpse of that excellence at an entirely fair price.
Les Fleurs de Mai is 100% Syrah grown on the hills just above the Condrieu appellation boundary, within the Collines Rhodaniennes IGP. This is a happy hunting ground for many good-value reds and whites, and seems to me one of the most reliable 'declassified' appellations to buy from. Top producers provide the evidence: Jamet, Pierre Gaillard, Stéphane Ogier, Yves Cuilleron, René Rostaing and of course Georges Vernay.
I tasted the 2016 vintage of Fleurs de Mai at a Yapp Brothers tasting in London this week, scoring it 17+ with the following note:
'Oh my – such a seductive nose of pepper, beef, black cherry and black olive. Expressive and rich and wonderful, with excellent acidic line and tender tannins. Such a long, aromatic finish! Pushes all the Syrah buttons. Pure pleasure.'
It is made from fully destemmed fruit with only eight months' maturation in oak, but it really does bear comparison with Côte Rôtie. Aromatically, it is vivid and complex, showing all the classic Syrah characteristics, and structurally it is absolutely ready to drink now, though it may well improve for up to five years.
Last year, Georges Vernay himself died at the age of 92. His daughter Christine has been making the wine alongside him for years, and on the evidence of this wine, the estate's reputation is in the safest of hands.
In Britain, Rhône specialists Yapp Bros seem to have the wine exclusively, priced at £19.75 per bottle. Elsewhere, Wine-Searcher shows the 2016 vintage available in France, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, the US, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany; while the 2015 vintage is available in Australia for AU$49, Hong Kong for HK$198 and Japan for 3,000 yen.