What We're Drinking: 2010 Northern Rhone

I don't do syrah justice on these pages.

Coming from around the world, the wines often do not get the distribution they need because of a soft market. On the other hand, Northern Rhone reds, which are either completely syrah or predominantly syrah, are bought up quite quickly. This shows a continued enthusiasm for the market segment and makes reviews certainly less important.

The Northern Rhone produces a fairly broad selection of syrah, though not in great quantity vis-a-vis many other major wine producing regions. In fact, the three most important appellations in the region, Cornas, Hermitage, and Cote Rotie, respectively account for about 100, 150, and 200 hectares of syrah. To put that into perspective, there are chateaux in Bordeaux that exceed 100 hectares!

These Northern Rhone syrah wines don't face the market demand of the greatest Bordeaux. In that respect, they are great values in today's marketplace, but that doesn't mean that they are cheap. These are some of the greatest expressions of syrah on Earth, and if you're a syrah lover, as I am, you'll want to taste through some of the great names to help complete your understanding of this adaptable variety.

I can understand the hesitancy to jump in with prices that easily flirt with triple digits, but there is hope for those wishing to stay within a more reasonable budget. In some of the greatest appellations, there are young producers still establishing themselves, producing wines that can often outperform wines at similar prices. For example, Vincent Paris in Cornas makes Cuvee Granit 60, which clocked in at less than $50 for this tasting.

Even better options exist if you decide to branch out into some of the lesser known regions, such as Crozes-Hermitage and, in particular, St. Joseph. With these, you do face challenges. These are larger appellations with greater variety amongst producers and sites. There's a fair share of mediocre wine produced here, but the great news is that much of the best wine from each appellation is priced roughly the same as the mediocre wine. Now, all that's left is tracking down the wines to try.

I can point out several of my favorite wines, and happened to have just tasted eight wines in a blind tasting. The notes are here, but before that, I would like to point out that not all wines are created equal, even if they are the same wine. What am I going on about now? One of my favorite topics: vintage variation.

Click here to find the best of 2010 Northern Rhone. 

— Gregory Del Piaz, Snooth