This was another in a succession of fine quality vintages in the Rhône, although due to the hot dry summer, volumes are somewhat reduced in 2017. The wines have plenty of bright, sunny fruit, good concentration and, critically for a hot year, good freshness too. The vintage is probably at its best in the North where the Syrah has excelled, producing wonderful juicy wines. Many growers are saying that they have the depth of 2015 with the elegance of 2016. There is great purity and freshness together with an almost ethereal balance on the palate. We also found a good tannic structure as the dry summer led to small berries, so the wines will age extremely well. Quantities, in Condrieu in particular, are small due to poor flowering. This also occurred in the South and particularly affected the Grenache around Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
As a result the wines have more Syrah and Mourvèdre than usual, a situation the Perrins at Beaucastel described as, “if one is making a virtue out of a necessity, this is an extremely virtuous outcome.” Quality wise the wines are generally on a level with 2016, the power and structure of the Mourvèdre making up for a bit less of the exuberant fruit of the Grenache. The whites in the South are soft and fruity for early drinking, those in the North have wonderful fruit, concentration and depth. Overall, this is a top quality vintage which can be approached young but will keep well.
Generally the weather conditions in the Rhône meant that the region escaped most of the extremes of hail, frost and snow which caused such problems elsewhere. The year started well but flowering was hit by rains and cooler weather in May and early June which led to losses of 50 per cent for many in Condrieu and the same for Grenache around Châteauneuf. Summer began in earnest after this with generally hot and dry conditions, particularly in the South which caused stress to some vines. September saw cooler nights though, which helped the balance in the wines, while in the North a small shower in September helped the grapes. Harvest in both the North and South started very early, for some varieties in the South, in mid-August. Everything was healthy though and growers were able to wait for what they saw as perfect ripeness before picking.