Guy Sarton du Jonchay has been the winemaker at the Rhone Valley’s Vidal-Fleury since 2008, but his roots in the wine business run deep. For decades he’s been making wine in France and in Argentina.
Happenstance has brought him home to France where he’s overseeing 80,000 cases of wine from Vidal-Fleury’s 19 AOCs each year. His approach: New World meets Old World, as Sarton du Jonchay focuses on wines which are ripe and fruit-forward but also balanced and expressive of their terroir. How does he do it? By aging his wines well before they are released: The current release of Vidal-Fleury’s Cotes-du-Rhone is actually from the 2007 vintage.
We sat down over lunch to taste through five current releases, from inexpensive table wines to the fancier stuff. Thoughts follow.
2010 Vidal-Fleury Cotes-du-Rhone White – 75% Viognier, 15% Grenache Blanc, and 10% other grapes. Lots of melon with a pineapple finish. A tough vegetal at the end, but very mild for a heavy Viognier blend. Really easy-drinking, paired well with all manner of seafood. B+ / $14
2007 Vidal-Fleury Cotes-du-Rhone Rouge – 65% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre. Somewhat thin for what should be a burly wine, lacking in power and minimally spiced. Not my favorite wine of the day. B- / $14
2007 Vidal-Fleury Saint Joseph – 100% Syrah. A rarity — 100% Syrah — from an AOC we rarely get in the U.S. My favorite wine of the day, rich with raisiny character, huge depth, and some gaminess to give it interest. Great body. A / $29
2005 Vidal-Fleury Cote-Rotie Brune et Blonde – 95% Syrah, 5% Viognier. A more delicate wine with more acidity, but peppery and lively. Not enough body for my tastes, which is strange because 2005 was a banner year for the northern Rhone Valley. A- / $74
2009 Vidal-Fleury Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise – A fortified 100% Muscat, bottled at 15% abv. The usual sweetness and orange blossoms are tempered with herbs and earth. A surprisingly drinkable and not cloying dessert wine. A- / $19 (half bottle)