Stéphane Ogier is something of a whirlwind. He greeted us when we arrived at the winery, while simultaneously sending out a delivery of a few cases, and saying goodbye to a large group who had just had lunch and a tasting. Originally his parents had a winery in the village, but Stéphane built a striking winery in contemporary style on the main road between Ampuis and Condrieu 2013. The ground floor includes a spacious tasting room, and there’s a vast winery underneath.
Stéphane spent five years studying viticulture and oenology in Burgundy, and then returned home to join the domain in 1997. “That is why great Burgundy, along with Rhônes, are my preferred red wines,” he says. Michel Ogier had sold his grapes to Chapoutier and Guigal until 1983, when he started to bottle his own wine from his tiny 3 ha vineyard in Côte Rôtie. One of Stéphane’s main objectives was to increase the estate to a more economic size, and he added vineyards in several lieu-dits in Côte Rôtie, now totaling 11 ha, and at La Rosine just above Côte Rôtie, as well as planting Syrah farther up the river at Seyssuel, and acquiring a hectare in Condrieu.
Tasting here is an extended process, as the focus is on barrel samples from Stéphane’s many different lieu-dits in Côte Rôtie, all of which are vinified and aged separately. It’s the way par excellence to understand the different terroirs and the basis for making individual wines versus blends. You really get a sense of the variety within Côte Rôtie. At the end, you feel you are almost ready to start blending…
IGP La Rosine comes from the plateau above Côte Rôtie; rich and plush, it offers a foretaste of the Côte Rôtie. IGP L’Âme de Soeur comes from Seyssuel and is more mineral. The Côte Rôtie Reserve is a blend from 10 lieu-dits. There are four single-vineyard wines. “There are no Grand Crus in Côte Rôtie, but I have mine—they are the cuvées of Belle Hélène, Lancement, and Côte Blonde,” Stéphane says. Viallière has also been a single-vineyard release since 2015. Other lieu-dits may be bottled separately depending on the year.
Lots are variously destemmed or fermented as whole bunches. Viallière is elegant, Côte Blonde is rounder with slightly lifted aromatics (it includes 5% Viognier), Lancement is broader and may age longer, and Belle Hélène, from 80-year old vines, is the most complete and subtle. All wines age in barriques, with 1-year to 6-year old barriques for the Côte Rôties, but the only cuvée showing obvious oak is Belle Hélène. The approach is modern, showcasing elegance and purity of black fruits. “Elegant” appears often in my tasting notes.
The wines mature slowly. When you taste the 2010 and can still see the tannins, you think the current vintages must be brutal, but not atall. Tannins seem, for example, to be quite similar in their impression on the finish in 2015 and 2010. Stéphane says it is best to wait 10 years to start, and 15 years for a great vintage.
2018 barrel samples from Côte Rôtie lieu-dits
Besset: nice aromatic lift with chocolaty impressions on nose. Very fine on palate, quite precise, greater precision and breed than La Rosine. Very fine, silky tannins, very elegant, sense of purity to the black fruits enhancing the sense of precision. All destemmed.
Mont Lys: very fine, precise, linear, not quite the breed of Besset, relatively lighter, more sense of linearity, not so profound. This is a wine to blend.
Montmain: chocolaty impression to nose, fine but rounder than Besset or Mont Lys, chocolaty at first, but then a sense of minerality grips the palate. Whole bunch.
Côte Boudin: comes from the lower slopes, all destemmed. More coffee than chocolate on nose, soft impression on palate, furry tannins, showing a touch of bitterness at end. Moving towards floral impressions although whole bunch.
Fonjeant: chocolaty nose moves to become slightly tart and then palate shows faintly acid edge. Partially destemmed, this will bring freshness to the blend.
Champon: always the last parcel to harvest. Very fine impression here points to potential delicacy. Quite tight, tannins fine but a little bitter, Very good acidity. This will really bring freshness.
Lancement: one parcel here goes to the separate cuvée, the others go into the general Côte Rôtie. All destemmed. Tight impression to nose, follows to palate, delicate impression, but less floral than Boudin. Precise impression, the most Burgundian, the most lingering finish, moving in a savory direction.
Côte Blonde: faintly chocolaty, faintly acidic, very fine, a chocolate edge, sense of coffee at the end, more evident aromatic lift. This will be fragrant as it ages. This has 5% Viognier, which explains the aromatic lift.
Belle Hélène: gives the most complete impression on the nose, with some delicate aromas of vanillin, hints of coffee and spice, very fine granular texture. This will be very elegant. Solely Syrah but 80 years old, planted by Stéphane’s grandfather.