Cote Rotie: Raw, Untamed, Beautiful - Levet Cote-Rotie Chavaroche 2009

Posted by Joe Salamone

Raw, Untamed , Beautiful
2009 Levet Côte-Rôtie La Chavaroche

"There is no more consistently great wine in our portfolio than Levet's La Chavaroche... If you want the truest of Côte-Rôties... if you admire both the intellectual and the savage, then this is a must-buy wine." -Neal Rosenthal

Neal Rosenthal has the reputation for being a straight-shooter, for eschewing salesmanship and big words in favor of the simpler truths.

And here, he breaks it down - Levet's Côte-Rôtie Chavaroche is one of the great wines in his strong portfolio.

Levet's Chavaroche offers a glimpse of Syrah at its rawest, its most wild, and its most beautiful.

The spirit that animates Levet's wines has been vanishing in the Rhone, and especially, Côte-Rôtie, for some time. There's an old fashioned honesty here that recalls the great and now retired traditionalists of the Northern Rhone - Marius Gentaz-Dervieux, the Cornas of Noel Verset and Robert Michel.

While prices of producers like Gentaz-Dervieux and Noël Verset have skyrocketed (Gentaz is now pushing $1,000+ for top vintages), Levet's wines are mercifully priced: 3-packs today are on offer for $54.95 a bottle. The cellaring potential and quality here is very impressive, especially at this price.

We've written this in the past about Levet's Chavaroche, but it's worth repeating here to underscore the value on offer. Qualitatively, Levet's Côte-Rôties are every bit at the level of Guigal's famous "La La's" (wines that are released at $300+ and head north from there). Stylistically, however, these wines couldn't be more different.

In a vintage like 09, with its power and concentration Chavaroche promises to be one for the ages. 2009 is a great Northern Rhone vintage, but for Levet it will likely be even more so. If you remember Levet's 05, you know how well he does in warm vintages. The extra-dimension of fruit really complements Levet's herbal, olive and mineral profile.

Levet's wines shine with some time in the cellar and they can age for decades and decades. Last fall, I had a 98 Chavaroche that was just beginning to enter early maturity. It was absolutely gorgeous - a seamless weave of animal, mineral, violets, olives and dark fruit... Sauvage, for sure, but with elegance to spare as well. Three-packs, or a couple, in consideration of your cellar, are recommended.

Here we start to get to the heart of what makes Levet special. Côte-Rôtie has gone through many changes in the past century. And while many producers are trying to make more approachable wines (pulling out all the "international" tricks, new oak barriques, micro-oxygenation, super ripeness), Levet makes no effort to do anything to make the wines more friendly or easier.

Chavaroche is brutally rocky and steeply-terraced southwest facing vineyard. There's an untamed beauty here, and that's exactly what the Levet's capture in their wines. They pamper their vineyards and let the grapes simply do their thing in the cellar - vinification is thoughtful, but there's no artifice at work. And when we say pamper, we mean it. Neil Rosenthal writes, "I have encountered no one who takes better care nor manages a vineyard with the talent of the Levet family."

For me, it's impossible to taste Levet's wines and not feel a deep respect for them. There's a directness to them, a truthfulness: this is Côte-Rôtie with its finesse, and with its wildness. There's something unique about its plain honesty that's elusive - and startlingly compelling. The sad part is that Levet is one of the last producers making wines like this on the Rhone's famous "roasted slope."

And this is all the more reason to jump on the wine in a great vintage like 09.

The pricing today is as low as you're ever likely to see it - when our parcel runs out, so does the price. To order, please email us at or call the store at (212) 980-9463.

Joe Salamone
Wine Buyer
Crush Wine & Spirits

Josh Raynolds for Stephen Tanzer: "Glass-staining purple. Intensely perfumed aromas of blackberry and blueberry liqueur, with notes of potpourri, licorice and black olive building in the glass. Ripe but impressively energetic, offering palate-staining dark fruit flavors and a strong note of candied flowers. Clings with outstanding tenacity on the smoky, vibrant, floral-accented finish."