Jessica Bryans interviews esteemed Côte Rôtie winemaker René Rostaing on his career and his thoughts on the Rhone Valley…
Meet the Winemaker Q & A with René Rostaing
“Wine is made from grapes, not from trees!”
That was how esteemed Côte Rôtie winemaker René Rostaing responded when I asked about the oak treatment in his wines during a recent visit to the Rostaing Estate in Ampuis. Following some talk on his winemaking philosophy and the wonderful 2015 vintage -Rosating proclaims it is one of the best he has seen in his career- I had the pleasure of tasting his distinct expressions of Syrah.
As one of the region’s “classicists”, Rostaing honours tradition while incorporating new ideas and technology. One thing is for certain: his wines are a dedicated style, quintessential to Côte Rôtie. He has spent his career honouring the unique terroir with minimal intervention in the vineyard, marginal amounts of new oak and has advocated for the typicity of the region.
I had the opportunity to pose a few questions to René on his career, the Rhone Valley and where he goes for inspiration. Here is what he said….
JB: Did you always want to make wine or did you have something else in mind at one time?
RR: Yes, after my studies I knew I wanted to be a winemaker. I started with just 1.5ha, took over vines from my father in law and my uncle to gradually reach 7 hectares today. My first vintage was 1971.
JB: How would you describe your winemaking philosophy?
RR: Expression of the « terroir » is the most important thing I think, especially in Côte Rôtie. We have a great diversity of “lieux-dits” here, all very different and unique so the hard work is done in the vines. When it comes to harvest I want to find those characteristics in my wines, not oak. Be as natural as possible.
JB: What do you love about the Rhone Valley? What makes it unique from other regions?
RR: My pleasure goes for wines that map their origin, truly reflect the area of production. Great Rhone wines have lots of finesse and age for decades.
JB: So, which is your favourite vintage that you have worked up until now?
RR: 1971, 1991, 1998 and 2010.
JB: Are there any young producers in the region that you think show great promise?
RR: My son!
JB: Which areas of your region do you think are under-valued?
RR: This wasn’t necessary the case a few years ago, but today I think we can be proud of our appellations and quality has improved a lot recently. Winemaking style is changing, more & more growers making approachable wines young.
JB: Where do you find inspiration for your wines?
RR: With my family and my own experiences.
JB: If you were going to recommend only one of your wines to someone, which would it be?
RR: Côte Rôtie « Côte Blonde » in the four vintage mentioned above. 1998 for drinking now….
JB: Who are other winemakers that you admire and whose wines you drink?
RR: Hubert de Montille in Burgundy.
JB: What is your favourite restaurant in the world?
RR: Chez Pic in Valence.
Browse our listings of Rene Rostaing’s wines here.
Visit Domaine Rostaing’s website here.