The vinous pleasures of Stéphane Ogier
Stéphane Ogier’s family had been growing grapes in the northern Rhône Valley for seven generations before his father Michel decided to make wine, beginning in the 1983 vintage. Michel also grew apricots, and in the 1950s apricots were worth more than three times the value of Côte Rôtie grapes.Ogier is an outstanding producer and I heartily recommend any of his wines, especially the top Côte Rôties – if and when you can locate them.
How times change!
Today Stéphane Ogier is one of the northern Rhône Valley’s most distinguished producers who sells his best wines for up to AUD $650 a bottle.
Stéphane visited Sydney in February, which leads me to a confession of sorts.
One of the most frustrating aspects of being a wine scribe is that I get to taste many great and fascinating wines, only to be told they are produced in such minuscule quantities that most of we mortals have scant chance of ever buying them. So it is that I’ve only just gotten around to putting pen to paper.
Ogier, in Australia at the behest of his importer Beaune & Beyond/Prince Wine Store, showed me 15 wines, many of which are not imported, let alone retailed here. They included six Côte Rôtie ‘lieu dit’ reds, all from the 2013 vintage, two Reserves and one La Belle Hélène, a special cuvée named for Stéphane’s mother. Lieu dit means ‘named place’: a bottling from a single plot of vines. These are fascinating to taste and compare but of peripheral interest to most wine drinkers as they’re almost impossible to get. The Reserve is a blend of these lieux dits. The 2013 Reserve is a blend of the six I tasted plus another six lieux dits.
The Belle Hélène 2013 is a single lieu dit: Côte Rozier. These are Stéphane Ogier’s oldest vines, planted by his grandfather just after World War 2 (and over 75 years old now). The 2013 was offered in limited quantity back in February by Prince Wine Store at about $650 retail.
The six 2013 Lieu Dit Côte Rôties that I tasted were sold in a few mixed packs at a retail price equivalent of around AUD $1700 per pack.
Ogier also makes viognier: the excellent Condrieu Le Combe de Malleval and a non-Condrieu: Viognier de Rosine. This last wine has a red twin: La Rosine Syrah (the 2015 is AUD $46-$55 at Prince). The source vineyard of both is classified IGP Collines des Rhodaniennes. Therein hangs a story.
“It’s the same land as Côte Rôtie but not in the appellation,” says Stephane. “The first vintage was 1991, and the wine is made the same way as the Côte Rôties.”
At AUD $55, it’s half the price of the Côte Rôtie Mon Village 2015 (AUD $110).
The other entry-level red is Le Temps Est Venu 2015 – a Côtes du Rhône, also AUD $29, composed of grenache, syrah and mourvèdre. The three cheapest reds have all been available at Prince Wine Store and I particularly enjoyed Le Temps Est Venu, a lovely fragrant, grenache-driven southern Rhône red that can be enjoyed immediately.
Ogier is an outstanding producer and I heartily recommend any of his wines, especially the top Côte Rôties – if and when you can locate them.