Nicolas Perrin is the collaboration between the Perrin family, of the Chateau Beaucastel fame in Chateauneuf du Pape, and Nicolas Jaboulet of the equally heavyweight player, Jaboulet, in the north Rhone. We were honoured to have a tour and tasting with Benoit Busseuil, Nicolas Perrin’s wine maker, who joined the boutique winery in 2014.
Jaboulet’s original winery was established in 1834, becoming Paul Jaboulet Aine along the way. In 2007, however, it was sold in its entirety to the Frey group – the transaction included the iconic chapel on the hill of Hermitage, after which their legendary La Chapelle wine was named. Nicolas Jaboulet stayed with the group for a couple more years before entering into a partnership with the Perrin family who make wines all over the South Rhone (and more latterly teamed up with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt to produce wines from their Chateau Miraval estate in Provence).
A desire to gain a foothold in the small, protected niche – with extremely limited availability of land in the best areas – that is the north Rhone, Perrin needed a connection. So Nicolas Jaboulet and the Perrin family created Nicolas Perrin and in 2009 they started as a negociant just buying some vines from small producers. Now they also have their own vineyards, about 10 hectares, planted on land which is mainly rented, and currently are producing a wine from almost all the appellations. With regards to Hermitage itself, akin to equally prestigious peers, J L Chave and Paul Jaboulet Aine, Nicolas Perrin blends the grapes from various plots – as opposed to Chapoutier, whose top lines are composed of single parcels – relatively easy when one owns a third of the hill. Around 30% of Nicolas Perrin’s Syrah blend is from grapes grown on the granite side of the hill; the remainder from more pebbly soil, calcium-rich, chalky terrain and also sandier soils. There needs to be a good proportion of sand to preserve acidity in order to achieve a balanced white.
- Viognier Vin de France 2015
Nicolas Perrin prides itself on producing high standard entry level wines. This Vin de France, made from Viognier grown on a plateau in St Joseph, is no exception. Interestingly, to qualify as an IGP (the grapes would have to be Marsanne or Rousanne to attain AOC status in St Joseph), Viognier would have to be grown on the slopes of St Joseph rather than at the top – hence the VdF label.
On the palate, there’s pear, quince and ripe apricots. The wine is very drinkable, but quite rich as well – I would imagine it would come into its own with food, maybe a light summery salad. The challenge in the warm 2015 was to retain Viognier’s acidity which has been comfortably achieved here.
- St Peray 2014
The St Peray appellation, which started off by producing sparkling wine, was initiated by monks moving south from champagne and discovering the soils in this part of France were acidic enough to yield grapes for sparkling wine. Sparkling wine, however, is now a bit of a rarity here – it is the region’s still white wines that are on the up.
This still, mainly Marsanne-based, St Peray is lean and breezy, and has had some light ageing. It’s seen no oak, though, and sometimes the malolactic fermentation (MLF) is stopped – not in 2014, however – to preserve the freshness. There’s a touch of ripe orchard fruit but mainly limes and almonds on the palate.
- Crozes Hermitage Blanc 2015
80% Marsanne, 20% Roussanne, this wine is composed of a mixture of vines from the north (granite soils) and the south (stony soils from one of the best villages, Chanos Curson) of Crozes Hermitage. Although 2015 was a good year, it was a little tougher for the whites as it was so warm.
On the nose, there’s an abundance of crisp green apples and a hint of riper, typical autumn fruit: golden apples and a hint of pear. On the palate, there’s both the crisp and ripe apple tang, intertwining with a floral freshness, some creaminess, a twist of hazelnuts and a lovely minerality. A complex wine with a mix of delicate and richer aromas.
- Hermitage Blanc 2014
Nicolas Perrin buys grapes from around 1.2 hectares of land in Hermitage and the grapes for this wine come from two key plots, Les Rocoules – a chalky soil – and La Maison Blanc, which is sandier. The resultant wine comprises 70% Marsanne and 30% Roussanne. It has a generous, tropical nose which is reflected on the palate – and then some! There’s some fresh white stone fruit, a bit of saltiness and a rich, nutty, toasty finish. Stunning.
- Condrieu 2014
An elegant, well balanced and clean tasting Condrieu, but with plenty of understated power that will come through as the fruit flavours mellow over time. Fresh white flowers and peaches on the nose, there lots of succulent apricot, balanced out by a touch of citrus. There’s also a hint of vanilla; though the wine is not aged in new oak, however. All in all, an impressive expression of the grape variety, paying homage to Condrieu’s survival and flag flying for the subsequent revival when Viognier plantings globally all but disappeared in the 1950’s.
- Crozes Hermitage 2014
This is a relatively simple, red fruited, violets and peppery wine. Nicolas Perrin will use whole bunches of grapes here to add some interest and texture, and the wine is aged on the lees.
- Cote Rotie 2014
Cote Rotie is often described as a ‘feminine’ wine and just one sip of Nicolas Perrin’s sensuous example personifies this. Not that we’d dream of opening a bottle of it to drink now – Cote Rotie needs to age for at least 10 years – but the wine is stunningly balanced already. Beyond the archetypal young north Rhone red berries, there are some perfumed blackberries, more than a hint of violet, black pepper, cardamom and some spicy tannins and a slightly salty, smoky minerality. I’m excited to see how this wine develops over the years.
- Cornas 2014
There’s a lot going on here – freshness from grapes grown at high altitudes (up to 400m) and that black fruited power coming from the Mediterranean climate. Black cherries and damson are complemented by red plums and tart redcurrants. Then there’s a lovely spicy pepper and cinnamon note; it’s drinkable now but I’d like to leave it for a little longer to gain some more tertiary aromas.
- Hermitage Rouge 2013
A meticulous blend of Syrah; with around 30% of the fruit coming from granite soils, 60% from stonier, gravelly terrain and the remainder from chalky, calcium rich soils. The wine is very young still, I got a lot of red currants and maybe a bit of rhubarb from the primary red fruit, however it’s very savoury too – gamey, in particular, with a long long finish.