The wine world has changed so much in the last 30-40 years. But some things–just a tiny few–have hardly changed at all.
Bernard Levet has changed hardly a thing over the 34 vintages of Cote-Rotie that Neal Rosenthal has imported. Josh Raynolds insisted that the wines hit a whole new level when Bernard’s daughter, Agnes, became more involved. But we've loved the wines for a long time and continue to.
The Levets make just a little wine from their mere 3.5 hectares. They farm in the old style, by hand, on Cote-Rotie's steep terraces. They use the same traditional methods that Gentaz and the like use to make the bottles that auction for so much now: long macerations, large barrels, no de-stemming. And every year, Neal Rosenthal imports his allocation and we buy a decent chunk for ourselves and our customers here at Flatiron.
It seems funny now, but Neal's website still warns that the wines are "controversial" and "wild." it seems the page hasn't been updated even as the rising price for Noel Verset's wines have shown just how favored wilder Northern Rhone Syrah has become! We are grateful that Levet's wines have so far been immune to this inflation.
There is definitely a wild side to these wines, which we love. But we've also noticed that year after year the wildness seems a little less pronounced. Is that Agnes's touch? In any case that quality calms down with proper cellaring. We've opened multiple bottles of mature Levet over the years and they are always beautiful examples of Northern Rhone Syrah. The wine's innate ferocity is tamed and integrated (but not eliminated) by the time in bottle.