Yves Cuilleron, one of our most internationally recognized growers, gradually transformed his family’s domaine from the handful of hectares he inherited from his uncle in 1987 to a 75-hectare master class on the entire region. He is perhaps most renowned for his outstanding Saint-Joseph and Condrieu (the two appellations that have been in the family for generations), but he also produces Côte-Rôtie, Cornas, and Saint-Péray of great character, and always with respect for the underlying terroir. Vineyards are worked without synthetic treatments and harvested manually; fermentations are spontaneous for all wines; and aging is always suited to the individual wine (his large and well-equipped facility allows him plenty of exactitude and flexibility in that regard).
In addition to the loftier appellations mentioned above, Yves also produces a handful of IGP wines that offer truly astonishing value, especially considering that these get just as serious (if slightly briefer) of an élevage as the more expensive stuff; there’s no perfunctory all-steel cynicism here, as he believes the soils only express themselves when the wines are allowed to breathe oxygen during their cellar stints.
Yves’s basic Syrah, “Les Vignes d’à Côté,” hails from a variety of parcels in the northern reaches of Saint-Joseph, in and around his home village of Chavanay. The sandy soils from this part of the appellation imbue the wine with an elegance and lift which harmonize beautifully with the signature varietal notes of smoked meat, cracked black pepper, and fresh leather. Yves moderates the alcohol levels of his basic wines in ingenious fashion, keeping their yields slightly higher than he would for his other wines rather than picking before phenolic maturity has arrived, and this 2019 clocks in at a modest 13%.
This gorgeous little Syrah offers remarkable complexity in addition to its freshness and typicity. Yves employs a lengthy three-week maceration for proper extraction, retaining around a third of the whole clusters, and ages it half in steel and half in used barrels, keeping the parcels separate until his skillful final blending. This “grown-up” élevage leads to a wine of depth that, tasted blind, one could be easily forgiven for mistaking as a Saint-Joseph, and which represents one of the very best values in the entire Rosenthal portfolio. We cannot recommend it highly enough as a staple and an effortless crowd-pleaser.