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Barge – Library St. Joseph and Top Cote Rotie


Stylzed image of Domaine Barge, Saint-Joseph Clos de la Ribaudy

"For decades, this domaine has given a prime example of traditional, whole bunch fermentation Côte-Rôtie, the wines very consistent."

—John Livingston-Learmonth, Drink Rhône


"This is the finest young wine I have ever tasted from the Combard vineyard!"

—John Gilman, A View From the Cellar


Josh wrote two emails last week about one of our favorite traditionalist Northern Rhone producers, Domaine Barges. When we first brought the Barge wines to New York they were still labeled domaine Gilles Barges. They were among the few “undiscovered” old school N. Rhone producers: beautiful, unfussed with wines that took time and had unreal soul. 

In the years since then Julien Barge, who worked with his father and grandfather before him, took over the domaine. The labels now say, Julien Barge, but the wines are as soulful as ever! Julien is one of our favorite winemakers in the world and we’re thrilled every chance we get to offer (or taste!) his wines.

We sold most of the bottles we had but there’s still a little bit of each one wine left (just a couple of cases of each though, so if you’re interested, don’t hesitate to click below and order!).

Mini-Vertical of Barge Saint Joseph

"Stylistically, this reminds me very much of the Saint-Joseph bottling from Gérard Chave back in the late 1980s and early 1990s."

—John Gilman, A View From the Cellar, about the 2018

Our importer just found a few cases of Barge’s 2018 and 2017 Saint-Josephs in his warehouse, a very luck find for us! With five or six years under the belt, these wines have really started to come into their own. We opened a bottle of each and they're just so much fun to taste side-by-side.

Barge is, of course, very old-school, and these are very old-school wines: bloody and full of animal and mineral notes. But they're elegant as well as intense: lithe as well as powerful, fresh as well as deep.

With air they evolve differently: the '17 seemed more intense, bloodier and more ferrous out of the gate, but the'18 started to show more and more fruit without ever becoming anything like flamboyant. One of my colleagues compared the '18 to the late, great Robbie Robertson: "so classic and poised!" I was partial to the 2017, but I get where she was coming from.

Domaine Barge, Saint-Joseph Clos de la Ribaudy, 2018 $38.99 

This wine was very highly rated on release, by both Gilman and the wine Advocate. Joe Czerwinski was pretty pithy:

“The impressive 2018 Saint Joseph Clos de la Ribaudy comes from a single hectare planted on granitic soils. It will spend 16 months in two-year-old pièces prior to bottling. Essentially a mini-Côte Rôtie, it boasts an elusive mélange of floral-herbal notes with cherries and raspberries. It's full-bodied but not heavy, instead coming across as rich, silky and complex, with a long, roses-and-tea finish.” (Joe Czerwinski, Wine Advocate)


Gilman was more fulsome in his praise: "The bouquet is deep, pure and already nicely expressive, wafting from the glass in a mix of cassis, black olive, pepper, grilled meats, dark soil, lovely spice tones and a smoky topnote. On the palate the wine is bright, full- bodied and very transparent in personality, with a superb core of black fruit, excellent complexity and grip, fine-grained tannins and a long, focused and vibrant finish. Stylistically, this reminds me very much of the Saint-Joseph bottling from Gérard Chave back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It is not particularly powerful, but intensely flavored and impeccably balanced for a long and beautiful evolution in bottle. 2025-2050+"

Domaine Barge, Saint-Joseph Clos de la Ribaudy, 2017 $38.99

Barge was flying low enough under the radar (we got exclusives on this wine for many years) that we didn't see reviews of the 2017. At this point though, it's a little more evolved and less primary than the '18. But we kept wanting to go back and explore its many layers. Soulful. 

2019 Barge Cote Rotie Coeur de Combard – the best of the cote

"For decades, this domaine has given a prime example of traditional, whole bunch fermentation Côte-Rôtie, the wines very consistent."

—John Livingston-Learmonth, Drink Rhône


"This is the finest young wine I have ever tasted from the Combard vineyard!"

—John Gilman, A View From the Cellar

Since Julien took over for his father, Gilles, there have been a few changes around the domaine. Some of them, like converting to organic farming, expanded and extended Giles' own traditional approach. Others have been in response to the changing climate. These have all been changes for the good. 

The one change that hasn't — in our view — been so good is the loss of a few rare hectares of Côte-Rôtie vines. As you know, we've thought Barge's among the greatest (and greatest value) wines of the Northern Rhône. So losing any of the wine hurts. But some of the Domaine's vines belonged to Gilles' brother and those have now been leased elsewhere. 

This means there's less wine. Less wine for us, but also less wine for Julien to work with. So there are fewer cuvées (no more separate Côtes Brune and Blonde, hélas). The silver lining is that the family has started bottling a special cuvée from the heart (the coeur) of the Combard vineyard -- and it is a very special wine.

Combard is a unique site in Côte-Rôtie. It's super-steep (important, if hardly unique) with volcanic soils covered in large pebbles (both unique, in Côte-Rôtie). The wine is particularly savory, deeply mineral, but also develops beautiful fruit. In short, it's about as serious as Côte-Rôtie gets. 

Both Gilman and JLL's reviews give a hint as to how serious the wine is. Not just the scores (95 and 5 stars, respectively) but, more to the point, the drinking windows: JLL says to enjoy it through 2049 while Gilman says 2100! 

So, this is a wine worth laying down, for sure. Does that mean that you can't open it now? Not exactly. We opened a bottle at the shop and enjoyed it over three days, watching it develop and change, different layers and families of flavors coming to the fore and then going into hiding again. Just a few minutes after we first opened it, it was all delicious ripe fruit and almost-flamboyant exotic notes (there's 5-7% Viognier co-planted and that may have been exerting a subtle effect). An hour or two later it was pure, savory minerality. We put the half-empty bottle in the fridge and a day later continued the fun: first one face and then another, always changing, always worthy.

Domaine Barge, Cote Rotie "Le Coeur de Combard," 2019 $109.99


“(Côte-Rôtie “Coeur de Combard”- Domaine Julien Barge) The Coeur de Combard bottling is only produced in what the Barge family feel are great vintages, as this is crafted from their filet section (or heart) of their holdings in this vineyard and only bottled on its own if the year is extraordinary. The 2019 Coeur de Combard comes in at fourteen percent octane and delivers a stunning young bouquet of raspberries, smoked meats, pepper, a hint of hazelnut, a beautiful base of soil, gentle spice tones and a lovely, understated framing of smoky oak. On the palate the wine is deep, pure and seamlessly balanced, with a rock solid core of fruit, stunning mineral undertow and grip, ripe, firm tannins, tangy acids and laser-like focus on the long, complex and oh, so promising finish. This is the finest young wine I have ever tasted from the Combard vineyard! (Drink between 2034-2100)" -- John Gilman, AVFTC


JLL has tasted it twice, writing: "dark, sombre hued robe; black cherry, cassis, soaked style fruits on the nose, a hint of rose-floral – it’s broad, lingers well. The palate starts with firm, sustained content, digs in, has a black fruits tone with firm, ripe tannins, hits the finish with real gusto, carries good 2019 drive. There’s a lot of wine here – it’s properly full, shows tarry and southern black olives’ late notes, has bold flavouring. Allow until 2027, for instance, decant it. 2047-49 Feb 2023 Previously June 2021 ****(*) (6-year 600-litre cask) dark red robe; the aroma is enclosed, with licorice, firm red cherry, blackcurrant, has hardly emerged. The palate debut is stylish on its texture, with suave, firmly established gras, keeps going with a defined freshness, keenness. This is classy, has a refined structure is cool and authentic with a little musky roundness on the close, the coolness leading well into that, with lead pencil notes on the aftertaste. Interesting Rôtie, plenty to study. 14°. From 2026. 2046-48 June 2021 


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