Southern Rhône

2018

Downy mildew was the biggest problem of 2018, reducing yields across the region, although not as severely as in 2017. However, the crop then enjoyed a perfect September, producing excellent ripeness with minimal disease pressure. The result is yet another high quality vintage, although acidity levels often needed boosting.

2017

Frost then rain then heatwaves didn’t make things easy for vignerons in the southern Rhône, and the harvest was early and small. The berries were similarly petite, resulting in marked concentration that has produced ageworthy reds.

2016

According to Michel Chapoutier, 2016 could be better than 1990 in the southern Rhône – praise indeed. Warm conditions throughout the year along with reduced yields has resulted in wines of great concentration – in colour, tannin and flavour. Certainly one of the great vintages, for reds anyway. Should be a safe cellaring prospect into the 2030s.

2015

Grenache suffered from coulure at flowering, meaning lower yields but the quality is extremely promising. Alcohol levels are likely to be higher than in the two previous vintages. Not likely to be as long-lived as the 2016s.

2014

A relatively light vintage in terms of alcohol and phenolics, even if not in terms of quantity. A mild winter and wet early spring built up water reserves. The growing season started unusually early but a cool, wet summer put on the brakes so in the end the harvest was one of the latest ever and some red wine grapes struggled to reach full ripeness. Sorting was essential. Maturity doesn’t seem to be improving them either.

2013 

Coulure was this year’s bugbear for the vignerons of the Southern Rhône, drastically reducing the Grenache crop: 2013 Côtes du Rhône may well be in short supply. As is often the case where low yields are matched by careful selection, overall quality is good, but generally speaking for medium-term maturation only.

2012 

Much more successful than 2011. It was a low-acid year in both the northern and southern Rhône. Alcohols are roughly average, but volumes are down by up to 15% on 2011. Clement weather late in the season made for relaxed harvesting however, and vignerons are optimistic about the results which seem to combine ripeness with some freshness. Most look set to peak in their teenage years.

2011 

Reasonably good quality and good yields, but won't be as brilliant as the preceding two vintages. Often drying tannins. With age, even the best names seem to be under par.

2010 

A very successful vintage, with precision and freshness allowing great expression of terroir. Equally outstanding for whites and reds. While both reds and whites were described as excellent on release, they perhaps haven’t matured as spectacularly as first expected. 

2009 

Hot and dry throughout August, but decent levels of rainfall too, and plenty of wind to keep the vines healthy. Very satisfactory quality fruit at harvest. Impressive. Sometimes over-alcoholic. Ageing very well at ten years old, with the Beaucastels looking particularly impressive, and capable of lasting another ten years at least.

2008 

Quite gutless reds, thanks to the rain, and not worth drinking past their 10th birthday.

2007 

Very wet spring but the region had a much drier summer than most of the rest of France. Wines and tannins are very ripe. Most should be reaching their best in their teens.

2006 

Some very lusciously fruited wines have aged remarkably well, with many Châteauneuf-du-Papes capable of providing pleasure well into the 2020s.

2005 

Great concentration and potential coinciding with increasing consistency of winemaking quality, although with maturity, the supposedly inferior 2006 vintage is looking the better long-term prospect.

2004 

A little sterner than the 2006s but similar in style. Solid but rarely thrilling, and best enjoyed while still reasonably youthful.

2003 

Excessive heat had fewer ill effects in this hot region than in the (usually) more temperate climes of Bordeaux and Burgundy. But the wines tend to be low in tannin and high in acid and even the best haven’t aged brilliantly.

2002 

So wet that there was flood damage just before harvest. Much downgrading of fruit into humbler bottlings than usual. Definitely not a vintage for the cellar.

2001 

Lauded vintage, the result of a very hot, dry summer. An unusually prolonged mistral at the end of August resulted in thick-skinned berries and accentuated tannins. Later harvesting resulted in better balanced wines – especially in higher-yielding vineyards – but acid levels are dangerously low in some cases. Drink within the first 20 years.

2000 

Conditions were excellent until quite heavy rains arrived on 19 September. The results, especially from those who picked early and fast, are plump, approachable wines capable of giving great pleasure even if they will not be the longest-lasting. Certainly shouldn’t be kept beyond their mid-20s.

1999 

Rather more challenging vintage than 2000 for growers and wines with less obvious richness than 1998 for wine drinkers. Heavy rains plagued the harvest and quality is distinctly variable. Hasn’t improved in bottle either.

1998 

Much garlanded vintage that struggled to live up to its reputation during its teenage years, although it staged a comeback in early adulthood, and the best Châteauneufs have proved themselves worthy of ageing for up to 30 years.

1997 

Rather muddy flavours from well ripened grapes. Only the very greatest producers created wines that have aged well.

1996 

Coolish, damp summer produced lighter-than-usual wines. Not worth keeping.

1995 

Very good colour and really ripe, concentrated reds. Some producers claim it is better than 1990, but after ten years of bottle age, the evidence suggests it isn’t.

1994 

Early harvesters were luckier, most picked in rain, so only average quality.

1993 

An unwelcome repeat of 1992's weather: diluted, easy-drinking wines.

1992 

Torrential harvest rains drowned the vineyards and the results are pretty dilute.

1991 

The Grenache failed at flowering and harvest time was uninspiring. Best forgotten.

1990 

Exceptionally sumptuous, powerful and heady wines with fairly low acidity. Only the finest survive, and even they have reached their optimal maturity at 30 years of age.

1989 

Fabulously concentrated with perhaps more backbone than 1990. Château Rayas might last forever, but others should be drunk up.

1988 

Good in all areas: full bodied and with firm tannins, often termed 'classic'. Not for long ageing.

1987 

Pretty poor generally, cool and wet weather with thin wines the result.

1986 

Mostly picked before the rains, these were firm and tannic in their youth.

1985 

Charming and ripe, even opulent on release, but now defunct.