Xavier Gerard Cote-Rotie has come a long way since 2013, when he had just recently assumed control of his family’s modest acreage in Condrieu and Cote-Rotie. His father Francois produced honest, solid renderings of these great appellations, and Xavier built upon that foundation, adopting a more thoughtful approach to viticulture (organic conversion) and vinification (judicious whole-cluster inclusion, lower sulfur, gentler bottling).
Several years ago, Xavier finished construction on a new winery which allowed him to move everything by gravity and to adopt a more tailored approach to elevage. The vintages since then have seen Xavier operating at a level equal to the greatest examples of the appellation, full stop. His raw materials are outstanding—vines in the crus of Mollard, Landonne, Brosse, and Vialliere dating back to 1922—and his no-nonsense vinification and elevage (spontaneous fermentation in concrete with 1/3 whole clusters; aging for two years in used 600-L barrels with no fining or filtering) result in a Cote-Rotie both svelte and chiseled, with ample fruit anchored by a deeply mineral-driven sense of finesse and lift.
Xavier’s wines are more elegant than those of our stalwart Domaine Levet, while being equally evocative and complex. Here, the warm minerality glides rather than punches, and the tannins feel silkier and more burnished. It has been immensely satisfying to experience Xavier’s growth over the years (although it makes me feel quite old to say so), and in the face of mounting recognition in the press and buzz among collectors, he remains a humble, engaging, curious, and charismatic vigneron. By Clarke Boehling