Domaine des Amphores Les Iris Syrah 2016
Winegrower: Philippe Grenier
Region: IGP Collines Rhodaniennes
Shipping: September 2018
When we offered this wine a year ago it sold out so quickly that it was impossible for us not to bring it back this year. This wine is its own little mini master class in how beautiful a Northern Rhone Syrah can be when raised in the right hands, from its violet inkiness in the glass to its dark berry floral aromas and refreshing palate. “Les Iris” is an entry level red wine from Domaine des Amphores. But the only thing entry level about this wine is its $25.50 price. This wine is made from 100% Syrah from a vineyard in the Rhodanienne hills just outside of Saint-Joseph and is from the outstanding 2016 vintage. On the nose it’s expressive and elegant, revealing beautiful blackberry, blueberry, currents and other floral aromas nuanced by violets. On the palate licorice and cloves add to the aromatics in a medium finish built on fine tannins; it is refreshing in a bright and utterly delicious, early drinking style. This tiny domaine is little known outside of the Rhône Valley and represents great value for the money.
Véronique and Philippe Grenier’s authenticity, tenacity and talent make them the kind of wine growers anyone would be happy to champion. In 1992, as a young couple just starting off, they took over an old, rundown house which had been uninhabited for 18 years with the half a hectare of wild farmland upon which it sat which belonged to her grandfather. Initially they grew chickens and goats, then in 1994 converted their small plot to a vineyard. Since those humble beginnings they have added other vineyards and now farm 9 hectares. The Grenier’s produce wines of outstanding quality and terroir from Saint-Joseph as well as red and white Vin de Pays.
From the beginning Véronique and Philippe have practiced organic farming and were certified biodynamic by Demeter in 2002. Their vineyards, just north of Chavanay including in Saint Joseph, are beautifully positioned at the top of the valley and overlook the Rhône and Alps to the east. Methods are traditional, only wild yeasts are used, old oak is preferred over new; extraction is gentle with a basket press frequently used. The wines are filtered lightly or not at all and minimal sulphur is used. The resulting wines are perfumed, elegant and wonderfully delicious!
Véronique takes care of the office and sales side while Philippe works the vineyards and cellar. Philippe works in a true experimental manner and develops his techniques through trial and error, constantly evolving his practices depending on what he observes, both in the life of the soil of their vineyards and in the cellar.
Don’t let the price of this wine fool you, Les Iris Syrah is not just a juicy quaffer. The aromatics are joyfully, Northern Rhone, something out of a Richard Olney cookbook (ok, he’s really a Provence guy but close enough.) The fruit is abundant but there’s no heat from the alcohol or jamminess from over-ripe fruit. On the palate it is round and generous, underpinned by acidity, minerals and fine tannins. Serve this aromatic delight in Burgundy stems at a 16˚ with this brined roasted pork shoulder. This combination of authenticity, pedigree and value doesn’t come along often.