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The Jamet brothers of Côte Rôtie

Côte Rôtie from the top of the slope
Côte Rôtie from the top of the slope

Domaine Jamet has produced one of the best, most "authentic", Côte Rôties for decades and needs little introduction to Syrah lovers. It was run until 2013 by brothers Jean-Paul and Jean-Luc after their father Joseph bought and resurrected terrific but mismanaged vineyards in the late 1940s. In recent vintages demand for the wines surged as consumers realised the incredibly quality produced here.

Sites that mostly surround Ampuis are blended to produce one flagship Côte Rôtie that is invariably excellent. Tiny quantities are reserved for small runs of Côte Brune (and recently Landonne). There is, too, a fruity and approachable “Fructus Voluptus” from newer sites made in a different manner. The Côtes du Rhône offers great value and showcases the house style in an approachable package (yet it ages remarkably well) - it is an excellent bet in great vintages. There is, too, the Côtes du Rhône Equivoque – a mini Côte Rôtie in all but name that needs a little more ageing before opening.

Alcohols are modest – typically below 13% and always below 14%. Whole-bunch fermentation is strongly preferred, bringing intoxicating aromatics impossible to achieve by those who destem. New oak has no overt bearing on the flavour of the wine – it is the perfume and structure of the fruit from their outstanding vineyards that does the heavy lifting.  The wines are the polar opposite of Guigal’s La Las.

Though ageing takes place in barrel for 22 months the diligent preservation of fruit and older oak means the wines are often reductive in their youth – buyers should be patient and wait at least five years from vintage. It is no exaggeration to say that the Côte Rôtie is often the wine of the vintage for those who eschew oak and alcohol as requirements for this variety, preferring the pepper, violet and game tones with an almost Pinot Noir lift. A wine for the purists, it ages wonderfully and typically reaches peak at 15-25 years of age.

It was a shock when it was announced in 2013 that Jean-Luc would be leaving the domaine to follow his own project. It seems the strong relationship of two brothers and their wives working under one roof for decades had finally fractured, though it is uncertain why. The domaine would remain under the stewardship of Jean-Paul – who had always been the winemaker – along with his wife Corinne and son Loïc. The 16-hectare vineyard would be carved in two, and Jean-Luc would start a new domaine called Jean-Luc Jamet.

The first two vintages here were largely sold off in bulk, the new barrels affecting the style as Jean-Luc discovered what he wanted to make. A new winery was built, together with a symbolic wall between the old and new to emphasise the split. Production has been 100% bottled under the Jean-Luc Jamet label from 2016 and the wines go from strength to strength. Whole-bunch fermentation is still important but is not as full as in the Domaine Jamet wines – the fragrance is therefore tempered and there is a riper, fuller fruit profile. Jean-Luc is joined by wife Evelyne and son Benoit in a mirroring of Jean-Paul’s team. The vineyards comprise Côte Rôtie, predominantly labelled as “Les Terrasses,” though there is also the exceptionally rare bottling of “Cuvée Pirate” – only made in specific vintages from Landonne parcels, and only a few hundred bottles at a time. There are also two hectares of Côtes du Rhône and a hectare of Vin de Pays. Each vintage we taste shows a step up in quality as the style settles. 2018, and the upcoming 2019, are magnificent. A recent bottle of 2017 tasted at our offices also showed brilliantly – it has shown the same tendency as his brother’s wine of needing five years from vintage to show its potential. We anticipate the wines to reach peak 10-12 years from vintage and continue drinking well for a decade.

Now that Jean-Luc is firmly established, we are delighted to offer small quantities from each domaine. They represent a brilliant opportunity to taste these wines side-by-side, and to follow Jean-Luc’s attempts to match his brother’s brilliance – he is getting closer each year, yet the prices remain very affordable.