Domaine Georges Vernay

2017 'Sainte-Agathe' Collines-Rhodaniennes IGP Syrah

Syrah •Sainte-Agathe

France: Rhône Valley

Offer Expired:Jun 30, 2020 at 11:59 pm
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Mission Briefing


In all but name

French wine law can be so fanatic that at times it borders the absurd. This wine, for example is essentially 100% from Condrieu, but it can’t be labeled so because the AOC rules dictate that only whites, made strictly from 100% pure Viognier, can carry that name! Therefore, when a perfectionist grower who specializes in spine-tingling Condrieu has access to a perfect patch of old-vine Syrah, all they can do is call it something else! We took a sniff and a sip, and call it HEAVENLY!

Make no mistake, what you’re getting here is Côte-Rôtie quality for $25 which is why we jumped on it. Too bad only a couple of barrels make their way to the United States and by the time it made its way to us most were already gobbled up. Take what you can we say, who knows when we’ll see more again.

Jancis Robinson says it all; “A (hypothetical) red Condrieu from the masters of the appellation. One of wine’s greatest pleasures is discovering a declassified wine which is every bit as good as the real thing. This week’s Syrah from the Northern Rhône is exactly that – delivering the perfume, intensity and typicality that is Côte Rôtie in all but name – but with the added twist that the appellation in which it is grown is in fact Condrieu, famed for its opulent white wines. The vines for this red are planted in the Ste-Agathe lieu-dit, which is in the heart of Condrieu, on a steep slope close to the town itself. Co-owner Paul Amsellem tells me that the soil here is the same black mica that they get in Côte Rôtie, and that when the appellations were created in 1940, the original proposition was to allow Condrieu and Côte Rôtie to overlap in this area, but local rivalries scuppered that plan before it could be enacted. The Domaine, George Vernay, still bears the name of its founder, the late hero of Condrieu, credited with saving both the appellation and its grape variety Viognier from extinction. In the 20+ years since his daughter Christine (Paul’s wife) has been making wine here, their range of reds has come to equal the reputation of the whites. The vines for their Ste-Agathe cuvée grow on a steep, south-east-facing slope… it was bursting forth with savoury, beefy aromas and luxurious black fruit. This late flowering of flavour, combined with firm (but not astringent) tannins, makes this a more ageworthy wine, and I’d be confident in cellaring it for ten years or more, since it has all the requisite qualities that allow for bottle-matured complexity… for a Vernay red offering all the quality and style that you’d expect from their Côte Rôtie that costs double the price, I think it is excellent value. Plus it has the additional premium of being red Condrieu!”

91 Points – Antonio Galloni’s Vinous “Vernay’s Condrieus are usually at the top of the heap for the appellation, vintage after vintage, and starting about five years ago her reds began to make their case for inclusion in the upper tiers of their own regions. Those familiar with this legendary Domaine’s elegant, highly expressive white wines won’t be surprised to find that their red siblings are also of the graceful school, eschewing weight and brawn for a lighter touch that emphasizes terroir as well as vintage expression. New oak is an afterthought and harvesting is carried out with a strong eye to maintaining acidity and keeping sugar and tannin levels on the low side. Vernay also tends to release her wines after they’ve had a bit of bottle age, a practice that I applaud and wish were practiced by more of her colleagues. The 2017 Sainte-Agathe is brilliant magenta. Aromas of black raspberry, cherry liqueur and olive are joined by bright mineral and floral nuances that build in the glass. Silky, pliant and broad in the mouth, offering juicy red and dark berry, spicecake and violet pastille flavors firmed by a spine of zesty minerality. Smooth and polished in character, finishing with well-knit tannins, sharp focus and lingering florality. Drink 2022-2028.”

91 Points – Wine Spectator

“While often thought of by consumers as a white wine Domaine (principally for Condrieu), I can’t express often enough to you how the reds have improved at Georges Vernay over the past decade. This is a reference-point domaine for the Northern Rhône. The 2017 Syrah Collines Rhondaniennes Ste.-Agathe shows lovely perfume (a hallmark of the reds here) with sandalwood, rooibos tea and white pepper aromas leading the way for very refined and silky red cherry and damson fruit flavors. There is no new oak here, and Vernay stresses that the smoky notes in the wine are Syrah’s natural profile, rather than an oak influence. Delightful cherry and blood orange notes are laced with a sanguine thread, ending with a savory flash on the mouthwatering finish. 650 cases made, 70 cases imported. Drink now through 2022.”

90 Points – Jeb Dunnuck

“2017 was a scorcher for the Northern Rhône, which can be difficult for Condrieu, yet Christine Vernay has done a brilliant job in both vintages. These wines show plenty of richness and depth yet hold onto a terrific sense of purity and freshness. All destemmed and brought up in larger oak, the 2017 Syrah Sainte-Agathe is more serious, with a Côte Rôtie-like perfume of smoked game, framboise, spring flowers, and hints of olives. Elegant, medium-bodied, silky and pure on the palate, it’s a rockingly good, elegant wine that can be drunk today or cellared for over a decade. Drink 2020-2030.”

What the Winery Says

Christine Vernay
100% Syrah
Collines-Rhodaniennes IGP, Northern Rhône
Vine age
40+ years
Decaying granite
7,000 vines / ha
South- south-east facing terraces
12 months
100% neutral French oak
2 barrels

About the Winery

Offer Expired:Jun 30, 2020 at 11:59 pm
Avg. Price
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