Domaine Jean-Michel Stephan
Jean-Michel Stephan is a rising star in the Côte-Rôtie, known for his minimalist winemaking philosophy. A former assistant of Marcel Guigal, Jean-Michel is a quiet vintner who successfully combines tradition and progress. He began organic farming in the mid-1990s and now farms the entire estate organically. He cultivates the soil around the older vines with a pickaxe, hand-sorts the harvest, practices slow and soft vinification, ages his wines with minimal SO2 treatments, and bottles them unfiltered.
From 10 acres of vineyards in the Côte-Rôtie, 10% on Côte Brune and 90% on Côte Blonde, Stephan produces wines of marked class, elegance and structure. While the average age of the vineyards is 50 years, some vines were planted as far back as 1900. The majority of the domaine’s vines are in two perfectly situated hillside locations – the Côteau de Tupin and the Côteau de Bassenon, and contain a high percentage of old-vine Serine, the small-berry ancestor of Syrah. Stephan produces limited bottlings from both these vineyards.
The 2006 Côteau de Tupin is 100% Serine (Syrah) and is aged for 24 months in a combination of new, one, and two-year-old, oak barrels. Stephen Tanzer awarded it 91-93 points.
The 2006 Côteau de Bassenon is comprised of 60% Syrah, 30% Serine, and 10% Viognier, and is aged for 16 months in barrel. James Molesworth of the Wine Spectator awarded it 94 points, writing,
This has a dark, brooding edge to it now, with aged tobacco, braised currant and dark fig notes laced with bittersweet cocoa and roasted earth. Muscular and brawny on the finish, with a tar and charcoal streak that will need cellaring to tame fully. Best from 2011 through 2019.
These wines are classic, traditional expressions of Syrah, and should not be missed.