2018 Reds from Aurélien Chatagnier: 15 Years of Great Syrah
Aurélien Chatagnier built his own eponymous domaine from scratch by planting and cobbling together just over eight hectares of small parcels in the hills above the Rhône river. Ever since his first vintage in 2004, the wines have been vinified in basic fiberglass tanks that he picked up second hand and aged in a cramped cellar below his 17th century farmhouse. The results are marvelously complex, balanced, and soulful bottles that give proof to the maxim that great wines are made in the vineyard, not in the cellar.
Aurélien has a knack for great winemaking, but he is also a master at naming. His vineyards each have their own personality, and rather than use the official name registered in the cadastre, Aurélien has given each parcel its own nickname. Pied Cassé (Broken Foot) is where he fell off a wall and broke his foot. Les Patates (The Potatoes) is where his uncle used to grow potatoes before Aurélien replanted to Viognier to grow Condrieu. Crêt Louison is the name of his single-vineyard IGP Syrah (Crêt means hilltop, and Louison is a bit of creative flattery named after the landowner’s daughter Louise). And let’s not forget La Teuf (The Party), which needs no explanation.
Rather than looking to increase the size of his domaine, over the past few years Aurélien has been content to focus on improving his existing vineyards, primarily by building dry-stacked stone walls with his vineyard workers. Each winter, they spend much of their time cutting and laying stones to create the walls that support the Condrieu and Saint Joseph vineyards planted on impossibly steep hillsides.
Over the past 15 vintages, Chatagnier has evolved from a scrappy kid to an established and respected winemaker in the Northern Rhône. He generally keeps away from new oak and extraction, and vinifies with a light touch, which ultimately leads to enchanting and engaging wines that have earned their place alongside the world’s best domaines in cellars and on wine lists around the world.