Apologies to start with: I am on holiday so this might be short and will probably be inconclusive also.
A couple of months ago I went to a comparative tasting of white and red wines from St. Joseph (Northern Rhône) and Switzerland (Fully, which is in the Valais region). Both vineyards can be very spectacular from a topographic perspective and both put forward their specific geologies as a general marketing pitch. But that does not mean that all the wines are good, nor that they are worth the money asked for them, as we will see in this tasting. Good wines depend also, and especially, on picking flavour-rich and ripe grapes and turning them into good wine with care. Geography, climatology and geology will not help you much there because the potentials that these ingredients may provide have to be fully realised, and that can only be achieved by human intervention.
The reds were all 100% syrah, but the whites had greater differences due to their different cultivars: marsanne or roussanne for the St. Joseph, and Arvine for the Swiss white wines. The principle of these partly unequal comparisons interested me, but the organisation turned out to be defectuous, with long and inaudible comments from a sommelière that went on for so long and were so pointless that I could not stay until the end (nor wanted to). I complained about this and the press agency kindly offered to send me some wines to taste later, which I accepted. I tasted these 12 wines recently with two colleagues and here are the results, with my own tasting notes, although we were generally in agreement, my colleagues being rather more severe in their judgements than I was.
I should say, as a word of precaution, that the samples I received were what they had left in stock and were perhaps not necessarily the cream of the bunch. But they are probably true to what one can fond on the market, as some well-known names were there, at least fro the French set. All were red and from the Syrah grape.
First flight, the French 6 (red St. Joseph & 100% syrah)
Paul Jaboulet, La Croix des Vignes 2015 (retail price 32 euros)
Reduction on the nose, rough texture with harsh and dry tannins and a distinct lack of ripeness to the fruit. Dries out on finish. No pleasure here! Poor
Cave de Tain, Esprit de Granit 2015 (retail price 22 euros)
A bit riper here with some juiciness to the fruit. Still has angular and somewhat ungainly tannins and finishes dry. Barely average.
M. Chapoutier, Les Granilites 2016 (retail price 62 euros!)
A much more attractive nose, with marked hints of vanilla from the barrel ageing. Suavre and slightly peppery feel, with fruit and acidity well in balance. Tannins still a bit stiff, giving a four-square finish. Given a couple more years, this could come around ok. Good, but seriously over-priced.
Domaine du Monteillet, Stephane Montez, Cuvée de Papy 2017 (retail 23 euros)
Very seductive nose that combines floral and spicy accents with its fruit base. It seems to have the lift and elegance that the others to date have lacked. On the palate, this has style, refinement and good complexity. Suave texture for this very attractive wine. Very good and reasonably priced.
Jean-François Jacoton, Pierres d’Iserand 2017 (price unknown)
Discreet nose and harsh and abrupt on the palate. Very dry and stemmy. Not good at all! Poor
Domaine du Tunnel (Stephane Robert) 2017 (retail 25 euros)
An unnecessesary thick and heavy bottle. Fine on the nose and powerful on the palate, this is a wine for prop forwards or for winter drinking a few years down the line. Potentially very good but hard to drink now. Potentially good.
The Swiss 6
Cave des Amandiers, Syrah, Valais 2016 (retail 33 euros)
Quite dense and fruity on the nose with a strong hint of oak as well. A bit vegetal on the palate (slight lack of full ripeness) but otherwise good density and length. Acceptable.
Philippe et Véronye Mettaz, Syrah de Fully, Valais 2016 (price unknown but probably over 30 euros)
Very floral nose with a string violet touch and hints of vanilla. Quite fleshy on the palate with lovely freshness, good complexity and length. Very good.
Cave Rodeline Combes d’Enfer, Petite Syrah (is this syrah or a misnomer as so often in Switzerland?), Fully, Valais 2016 (price around 25 euros)
Quite full-bodied and warm on the pala. A bit heavy and ungainly. Rustic. Acceptable.
Cave La Rodeline, cuvée La Serine, Fully, Valais 2017 (price 36 euros)
Massive and lacking in finesse. A big tough and rough red. Very poor
Mathilde Roux, Cave d’Orlaya, Syrah, Valais 2017 (price unknown)
Quite a refined nose. Slightly contrasted sensations on the palate, with juicy acidulous fruit on the one hand and a feeling of too much extraction from slightly under-ripe fruit on the other. Decent wine on the whole.
Not a lot to be said about such a short series of such disparate quality, except that very few of these wines offered decent value for money. As always, the appellation does not spell quality, it is the producer who determines that. Two very good wines out of 12, (Montez for St. Joseph and Mettaz for the Valais selection), but is that enough for wines that sell for over 20 euros per bottle?