The following article was originally published on JancisRobinson.com.
Domaine Jamet’s Côte Rôtie is my desert-island wine. While I have never visited the domaine despite several attempts – something to put right in 2023 – the wines always leave a lasting impression. Unfortunately, the difficulty in finding them in the UK has paired with increased prices as demand has surged for this once-hidden gem.
In France distribution seems to flow much more easily with the wines available in greater volumes and at lower prices, so they are always worth seeking out in both restaurants and shops. The recent division of the domaine between brothers Jean-Paul and Jean-Luc has only made finding the wines more difficult. The reasons behind the split remain obscure but it is clear that it was not amicable. Jean-Luc now makes wines under his own name and his name has been replaced on the labels by that of Jean-Paul’s son Loïc.
The beauty of Jamet’s Syrahs is easy to convey. They offer the best expression of the aromas only achievable with whole-bunch-fermented Syrah. Layers of herbal spice, floral character and structural depth come from this process that, when managed correctly with ripe stems, can be intoxicating. This is paired with a philosophy of leaning towards freshness, giving an edge that, with very few exceptions, is found only in the northern Rhône.
New wood is never a prominent feature, nor is extraction. Jamet was never influenced by fashions led by some critics for ripeness and power. Because Jamet’s wines never offered these characteristics, some remarkably low scores for older vintages and great wines are to be found. That meant that the wines remained either unknown or undesirable by many collectors and prices were mercifully fair.
Now, however, the genie is well and truly out of the bottle. As drinkers move away from oak and ripeness, Jamet is ready to take up the mantle from producers such as Guigal, whose top Côte Rôties could not be more different stylistically. Thankfully it still seems Jamet enthusiasts are drinking the wines and not overly speculating on bottles that deserve to be drunk.
One of Jamet’s biggest proponents is Mark Williamson of Willi’s Wine Bar in Paris. A veritable institution, the bar opened in 1980 and has been a favoured location of wine lovers and professionals ever since. Many members of the wine and restaurant trade have spent time working at the bar – our [Jancis Robinson's] own James Lawther MW for one, and Charles Lea of Lea & Sandeman, Tom Ashworth of Yapp, Charlie Young of Vinoteca, Tim Johnston of Juveniles round the corner, Fanny daughter of Alice (Chez Panisse) Waters and German wine writer Joel Payne.
Stephen Browett wreathed in Jamet corks
Mark has enviable access to Jamet’s wines, having listed them at Willi’s for decades. This access led to a plan, hatched by my uncle Stephen Browett, to organise a lunch in Paris where we would drink an unparalleled range of the wines. The date set, we jumped on the early Eurostar from London to be at Mark’s neighbouring restaurant Macéo and set to work tasting through all the wines below in time to be back in London the same evening. No mean feat, but the service and company meant there was time to enjoy and discuss each wine before moving to the next vintage.
We started with the Condrieu Vernillon, a recent addition whose name is an amalgamation of the two sites used – Coteau de Vernon and Chatillon. In keeping with Jamet’s signature, the best examples of this are fresh despite Viognier’s tendency to be blowsy. Following this warm-up, we delved into a vertical tasting which included 11 consecutive vintages of Dom Jamet Côte Rôtie from 2019 to 2009, plus the 1999 and 1998 – ‘for fun’, said Mark. The wine is remarkably consistent – the only weak wine owed its low score to possible cork taint and certainly an imperfect bottle.
Whole-bunch is evident in all vintages but carefully matched to the ripeness and intensity of the fruit in the vintage. Always showing savoury complexity, the wines are lined with acidity and spice with exceptional finesse – even in the hotter vintages. Often it was the less famous vintages that shone. Nowhere else is this clearer than with the brilliant 2011. Both the Côte Rôtie and the Côte Brune bottling were standouts in stellar company. 2011 is turning out to be a superb, approachable vintage in the northern Rhône. Perhaps it will hide in the shadows as 1991 did for many years due to the indifferent quality of the vintage elsewhere in France coupled with the two stellar vintages it follows.
Just 2,000 bottles a year are made of the Côte Brune, from vines planted in 1947. Its depth, presence and structure make it the essence of Côte Rôtie. Hard to find and always highly priced in the secondary market, Jamet’s Côte Brune does need time to soften, so bottles should be cellared and forgotten where possible. It is worth spending the money on a mature bottle if you see it.
The new bottling of La Landonne is also limited to roughly 2,000 bottles and has been made only since 2018. The current philosophy is that it will be made only in great vintages. It has a gloss and softness that the other Jamet wines do not, perhaps sacrificing a little of the fragrance and freshness that give the other wines their edge. Undoubtedly very impressive, the La Landonnes are less identifiably of the house style than their peers.
A quick mention of the two Côtes du Rhônes. Though we tasted just one vintage of the straight Côtes du Rhône, it was very impressive. It is often a great pick, and a worthy introduction to the style of wines here. I have bought it often myself as it brings all the character of Jamet at a reasonable price. It suits slightly warmer and drier vintages, perhaps as the vineyard sites need a little more help to reach their peak. It drinks well fairly young – the 2019 was singing already – though the 2015 I have been drinking recently is at its apex now, and a 2009 served blind at a dinner recently was superb and fully mature. The Équivoque Côtes du Rhône is really a mini Côte Rôtie, deeper and darker in fruit, more structured and needing a little more time in bottle. Vines come from parcels adjacent to Côte Rôtie and the blend often includes a little declassified youngvine fruit from inside the Côte Rôtie appellation.
I doubt I will ever have the chance to drink so many wines from Domaine Jamet in one sitting again. It was an extraordinary experience and confirmed the incredibly high bar that Jean-Paul and the family set every year with their wines. Syrah remains in the second tier of most drinkers’ top red wine grapes, behind the likes of Pinot Noir and Cabernet/Merlot blends. Yet it offers the best of both in examples like this: complex and lifted aromas paired with savoury depth, energy and structure on the palate. The experience has only cemented my love for the wines made here. I’d happily move to that desert island for an endless supply.
The following tasting notes were originally posted on JancisRobinson.com and therefore scores have been left in the 20 point scoring system.
Condrieu Vernillon, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2020
Pale for Condrieu, showing a mineral, wet stone character and fresh tones of white flowers over the more typical tropical fruit of Viognier. The palate too has admirable freshness, showing oily citrus together with hints of pineapple curd. Waxy and textural, there is a grip to tighten and lift everything at the finish.
Condrieu Vernillon, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2019
Showing the most typicality of the three in this vertical, the palate is broad with peaches and cream. Apricot jam, mango and passion fruit curd all on show on a broad, almost fat palate. Fruit punch dominates on this intense wine that will please lovers of Condrieu’s flamboyance.
Condrieu Vernillon, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2016
Still fairly pale in colour, with a waxy tone to the nose that shows smoky apricot fruit and tart tatin. There is more than a whiff of Chenin Blanc about this wine, which follows on the palate with its fleshy baked apple and peach fruit, waxy tones and admirable freshness. This is not for the long haul but it is an interesting and delicious interpretation of Viognier.
Côtes du Rhône Rouge, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2019
Vivid mid-purple colour with a knockout nose of cherry blossom and bacon fat. Meaty yet youthful and fruit driven, with a crack of fresh black pepper to boot, this is absolutely delicious. Green olives, dark cherries and zesty acidity against ripe red fruit, the tannins are soft, cloaked by pure fruit. Delicious already, these wines can be deceptive and age beautifully for a decade or more. If you’re lucky enough to find some, it would be hard to wait that long.
Côtes du Rhône Rouge Equivoque, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2019
Deeper than the straight Côtes du Rhône, the Equivoque shows black fruit and a touch of wood spice, yet has the same underlying freshness. Rosemary stalks, peppercorns and nutmeg come with deep brambly fruit and chalky tannins on the palate. Really this is a mini Rôtie – and needs a couple of years. Crunchy and full of spice on a very long finish.
Côte-Rôtie, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2019
Bright purple colour. An exercise in young Syrah – what a nose! High floral tones meld with fresh blueberry, dark cherries, freshly ground black and white pepper, dried herbs, game, smoked bacon and more. The palate shows more fruit and pepper than anything else at this young stage, with remarkable purity and an effortless, fleet-footed intensity. Tightening on the back end, this may well shut down in the near future but it is absolutely delicious now. Waves of fruit and stem structure offer grip and crunch but the tannins are set in harmony with the fruit. Wholebunch is ever-present as a character, but always on the right side of the line and refreshing the riper fruit tones on the long finish. Superb.
Côte-Rôtie La Landonne, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2019
Deep ruby purple colour. Very youthful and a little stubborn to reveal itself on the nose at the moment. Ripe blueberries and forest fruit come together with a little spice and black olive. The palate shows the same dense youthfulness. This is ripe and deep but hard to unravel at this moment. Darker, fuller and more fruit driven in profile with a dense, bold structure, it is hard to read but shows good potential. I would be interested to try this at a decade old, if I were ever given the chance to try it again!
Côtes du Rhône Rouge Equivoque, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2018
Slightly stubborn on the nose, with smoky blackberry fruit and a little bacon fat with some reduction. The palate is sweet, ripe with damson fruit, layered against woody herbs. Succulent and muscular, perhaps a little too rich at the moment though I expect it will get there.
Côte-Rôtie, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2018
Darker in fruit profile with a lick of black olive, this carries the ripeness of the vintage well on the nose. The palate is slicker and fuller than normal, plump and round in a way that loses just a bit of the edginess that makes Jamet so unique. A big wine for this estate but still very enjoyable with enough aromatic x-factor.
Côte-Rôtie La Landonne, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2018
Deep colour and dark fruit come with a liquorice-scented edge of blackberry and dark cherry. Sleek and opulent, this is highly polished and refined, a very well-made wine. Hints of spice and vanilla, the youthful generosity shows off the ripeness of the vintage. I want a little more bite.
Côte-Rôtie Cote Brune, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2018
Perhaps down to the old vines, the Brune manages an aromatic freshness and complexity that the standard Rôtie and Landonne can’t quite reach. Layers of green and black olive, woody dried herbs and smoked bacon all come through. The vintage still shows in the darker, riper fruit tones of the palate and a slightly warming alcohol, but this manages layers of deeply savoury game and spice notes that are the signature here. Improving all the time with air, this should turn out to be a brilliant wine for those with patience.
Côtes du Rhône Rouge Equivoque, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2017
Marked by a little reduction for now, there is a red-fruited lift to the nose here that mingles nicely with the flinty, peppery tones on the nose. Smoky and spicy on the palate, this opens up quickly and nicely with air. Chalky and fine, it may well merit a higher score if enjoyed over a bottle with air rather than as a half glass in such stellar company.
Côte-Rôtie, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2017
A nose that screams Jamet – edgy herbal tones from wholebunch fermentation mingle with peppercorn, smoked bacon and pure, vibrant blueberry fruit. There’s a hint of balsamic to the fruit on the palate – intense yet lifted and floral. Bright, with chalky tannins cloaked in pure red and blue fruit, there is just a hint of olive tapenade on the back end. Delicious.
Côte-Rôtie Cote Brune, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2017
Intoxicating and intense aromatically, layers of freshly ground pepper, violets and blue fruit come through. You can get lost in this nose; it is the essence of Côte-Rôtie. The palate has real muscle and depth, with fine but plentiful tannins coating the mouth. There is a smoky spice and sinewy black fruit offering bass notes against the floral lift. A magnificent wine that develops beautifully in the glass.
Cotes du Rhone Rouge Equivoque, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2016
Perhaps struggling straight after the 2017 Brune, the nose here is a little reductive and rubbery. The fruit is pure, youthful but a little sterile. Everything is in the right place here, with fine tannins, supple fruit and admirable freshness, but it lacks just a little character.
Côte-Rôtie, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2016
Much the same as the Equivoque, the 2016 Côte-Rôtie is very clean and very pure with a little reduction still stunting the nose. It opens up with air, but the extreme finesse to this wine makes it hard to penetrate. There is excellent energy and the proportions are perfectly balanced. Perhaps – along with the Equivoque – this is just shut down for now.
Côte-Rôtie Cote Brune, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2016
Though this has the same purity as the Equivoque and the Côte-Rôtie, the Brune shows more character, more energy and more depth. Cool, with finely etched fruit against flecks of spice and dried flowers, this is trying to push through but is also a little closed for now. The finish is very long indeed, and has flourishes of bacon fat, grouse, and ground pepper. Give it time.
Côte-Rôtie, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2015
Quite opposite to the 2016, the 2015 is open-knit and very savoury. Game, ripe red and black fruits and smoked bacon all show on the nose. The palate has admirable freshness but the fruit has a softer, rounder feel. The tannins are already melting into the wine, adding to the generous, silken mouthfeel. Finely balanced and moreish, a delicious example that can be drunk now but has great persistence for further ageing.
Côte-Rôtie Cote Brune, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2015
A brilliant, intoxicating nose that harnesses the ripeness of the vintage by melding riper, darker fruit tones with powerful dried herbs and peppery spice from the stems. Multi-faceted with sweet and savoury meeting in the middle. Smoky, with a rich texture from bold but ripe tannins, it manages crunch and sweetness at once. Outstanding.
Côte-Rôtie, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2014
Slightly rubbery and reductive on the nose, the 2014 is hard to get into at the moment. With air, there is a strong white and black pepper note together with ripe red fruit. Young and chalky on the palate, there are good bones here for those willing to wait. It should be silky, cool and refined in a few years time.
Côte-Rôtie Cote Brune, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2014
Much as with the 2014 Côte-Rôtie, the Brune is very tight at the moment. Cool blue fruit and black pepper have an effortless balance on both the nose and the palate. With air it is very fragrant, but the palate remains taut and unyielding. Precise, pithy and long, give it at least three years before approaching.
Côte-Rôtie, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2013
I have had better bottles of this wine in the past – there may have been a hint of cork taint to this specific example. Muddy and muddled, there is a good wine underneath. One of the attendees opened another bottle after the lunch and confirmed it was indeed much better than this one.
Côte-Rôtie Cote Brune, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2013
Very high toned and floral on the nose, with minty dried herbs and a hint of game. The palate is lithe but layered, with sinewy, grippy tannins coated with silky red fruit. Cool, savoury and elegant despite its intensity. Just entering its drinking window, this has real finesse and approachability.
Côte-Rôtie, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2012
In full flow on both the nose and the palate, the 2012 is gorgeous right now. Silky blue fruit, smoked bacon and fresh black pepper – you couldn’t be anywhere else. Whole bunch spice mingles perfectly will cool but ripe fruit and fine, persistent tannins. Seductive and juicy but refined and spicy at once. Very long finish. Excellent.
Côte-Rôtie Cote Brune, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2012
Turning up the intensity on the straight Côte-Rôtie without losing any freshness, this is a knockout wine. Pure blueberry fruit, savoury hedgerow and peppery lift all come together. Woody herbs show the wholebunch but the palate is led by the very youthful fruit. Structured and deep, this is already superb but the length and intensity promise much more to come. Great potential.
Côte-Rôtie, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2011
A bit of a hidden gem, this 2011 has been an absolute knockout to drink over the last few years and it continues to show its brilliance. An almost Pinot-like elegance mingling succulent red and cool black fruit, together with green and black olive and both white and black peppercorns. It is hugely enticing and complex on the nose. The palate is gentle, with tannins succulent and melted into the wines. Rising notes of game, bacon fat and savoury, dried fruit come in waves, building to a flourish on the finish. It continues to improve with air, suggesting even better things to come. Like 1991, 2011 in the Northern Rhône delivers so many outstanding wines that are often forgotten after 2009 and 2010 (see 1989 and 1990), and due to the relative indifference towards wines in this vintage from elsewhere in France.
Côte-Rôtie Cote Brune, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2011
The Brune ramps up intensity on the nose and structure on the palate compared to the straight Côte-Rôtie. Deep and highly refined, it is still on the ascent with blue fruit and fresh black pepper on the nose giving way to a meaty, peppered steak note on the palate. Very long, very complex, with Jamet’s unique signature woven into every element. Acidity is key to all the Jamet wines, but its freshness here serves to bring such a moreish balance that keeps you coming back for more. Paired with the intoxicating nose, it is perfection.
Côte-Rôtie, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2010
Deep, rich and smoky, there is a spicy, peppery, dark fruited character to the 2010. This wine shut down for some time in its first decade but is now delivering brilliantly. Surprisingly fine and fresh given the dark fruit and rich structure, this shows superb delineation of fruit, game, dried herbs and pepper. Still crunchy, powerful and long, it will likely continue to improve in time and deserve a higher score.
Côte-Rôtie Cote Brune, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2010
Smoky, with a blend of game and succulent black fruit on the nose. Unlike most other vintages, the Brune here has a softer palate than the straight Côte-Rôtie. Supple black fruit and fresh, vivid acidity marry perfectly in this youthful, fine example. This actually tightens a little with more air, the structure increasing in presence with wholebunch spice. Harmonious, and very long. A great life ahead.
Côte-Rôtie, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2009
Meaty, succulent and intense on the nose, showing layers of ripe red and black fruits with a real hit of smoked bacon. The tannins are ripe, as would be expected in this warm vintage, but the freshness is the most impressive element to this wine. Silky and precise, it shows a balance between rosemary, white pepper, pink peppercorns and generous blueberries and forest fruit. Delicious now, but there is no rush.
Côte-Rôtie Cote Brune, Jamet, Jean-Paul 2009
The fresh, high-toned, floral notes on this nose belies the warmth of the vintage. Highly fragrant with violets, leather, green olive tapenade, game and oodles of ripe, blue fruit. Seductive on the palate, the plentiful tannins is cloaked in the succulent fruit and increasing savoury depth. Finely balanced, with the signature fresh acid lift on the back end, it is absolutely gorgeous.
Côte-Rôtie, Jamet, Jean-Paul 1999
Mid garnet colour. Despite over two decades in bottle this wine is remarkably youthful. There are layers of game, bacon fat and savoury leather, but the underlying fruit still shines through. Fine, ripe tannins have melted away and allow the sweet and savoury elements of this wine to shine through. Hints of peppered steak and dried flowers add subtle complexity to the finish. Acidity forms the backbone and promotes the youthful, vibrant elements of the wine. Still very long, it shows how delicious these wines are in the short-, mid- and long-term.
Côte-Rôtie, Jamet, Jean-Paul 1998
Meaty and now mature, this is savoury and generous on both the nose and palate. Softer and more hedonistic on both the nose and palate than the 1999, it is seductive with notes of grouse, black peppercorn, wood smoke and dried rosemary. Supple dried fruits and dried flowers offer the sweetness, with a fine acidity persistent throughout. Excellent.