Jean-Michel Stephan: great natural Côte-Rôtie wines

jean-michel-stephan-cote-rotie

It is rare to find “natural” wines from Côte-Rôtie. Those of Jean-Michel Stephan are therefore exceptional, characterized both by their purity and an admirable freshness of the fruit. Their asserted character will surely trigger a great emotion.

In 1991, Jean-Michel Stephan decided to establish his domain in Tupin-Semons (AOC Côte-Rôtie), about 40 km south of Lyon. At that time, he was still very young and had just graduated from an agricultural college in the Beaujolais region. He worked for the Domaine des Terres Dorées, owned by Jean-Paul Brun (Beaujolais), which was a great experience for him. Son of an arborist, he has been passionate about viticulture for many years: he planted one hectare of vines with his father at the age of 14.

In 1991, he began by taking over 3 hectares of vines, including some very old vines. He replanted Syrah, and in 1994 he started making wine. From the beginning, he opted for a very natural approach in the vineyards and cellars. He was even certified organic, before leaving this system which he considered was not serious enough, especially when doing the checks. Today, even though he doesn’t have the certification anymore, he only uses organic fertilizers and never any synthetic products. The new vines follow a massal clonal selection.

The vines, on hillsides, are ideally exposed South, South-East. On some plots, work can only be done with a horse or by foot. Today the vineyard covers 4.5 hectares. The largest plot (1.5 hectares) on the slopes of Bassenon is composed of terraces of granite and gneiss. The other plots are located on the Coteaux de Tupin, Les Bercheries and Verenay. Some vines reach 120 years old.

In the cellar, he has not added any sulfites since 1997, after meeting Yvon Métras and Marcel Lapierre. Fermentations are made with yeasts from recent vinifications and everything is done in the most natural way possible. Aging takes between 12 and 24 months depending on the cuvées and is done in old barrels, already used for several wines. No finings are added to the wines, and they are not filtered.

Jean-Michel Stephan puts a lot of effort into bringing out the freshness and elegance of the fruit. Due to the minimal use of sulphur, wines may give closed aromas when opening the bottle but those fade quickly after aeration. Jean-Michel Stephan’s Côtes-Rôtie wines are among the most sought of the appellation.

 

The wines of Domaine Jean-Michel Stephan currently for sale:

Vin de France 2016:

The nose spreads red fruit aromas (cherry, blackcurrant), peppery and menthol notes as well as more animal notes. The attack is tonic and smooth, with a nice freshness. The same aromas as for the nose are present on the palate.

Côte-Rôtie 2014 2015

The very pleasant nose shows a beautiful aromatic intensity, with diverse aromas of blackcurrant and blackberry, but also sweet spices (cinnamon, licorice), as well as subtle oaked notes well integrated. The mouthfeel is fine and elegant, with fruits and silky tannins.

Côte-Rôtie Coteaux de Bassenon 2014:

This wine, made from delimited Côte-Rôtie parcels, is aged in barrels for 24 months. The nose presents aromas of violets, blackcurrants and pepper. The mouthfeel is fine and delicate, tannins are coated, and the finish is very long and sapid.

Côte-Rôtie Coteaux de Tupin 2014 :

This 100% serine wine, made from a strict selection of parcels, has a pure aftertaste. The nose is very expressive, with typical Syrah aromas, like red fruit, animal and violet. The palate gives a nice freshness, straight and stretched with a long, fruity and peppery finish.

 

What the guides say about Domaine Jean-Michel Stephan:

  • La Revue du vin de France

Jean-Michel Stephan, a young winemaker who learned the ropes with Jean-Paul Brun (Domaine des Terres Dorées, in Beaujolais), acquired very fine Côte-Rôtie vines, from where he produces wines that immediately became well-known for this appellation. The generic Côte-Rôtie cuvée is very pleasant, even young: it is partially made in carbonic maceration, which gives it fruitiness and freshness that does not hide the terroir. The most ambitious cuvée, En Coteaux Vieilles Vignes (traditionally vinified), comes from serine, the original variety of Côte-Rôtie Syrah, and has a rare sap and character.

The wines: Côte-Rôtie Cuvée de Tupin, vinified without sulfur and aged for 24 months in oak barrels, is a symbol of purity and elegance in the 2002 vintage. The wine is irresistibly delicious. The other cuvée has a more simple expression.

 

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