Meet some local winemakers...
Xavier Gérard, Condrieu (Condrieu, Côte-Rôtie)
Xavier's own estate is a mere 1ha (about 2½ acres) of vines planted on a steep slope in Condrieu that he uses to make a delicious, fruity wine labelled simply “viognier”. But he is equally hands-on when it comes to the wines of his father's eponymous François Gérard estate, which produces both Condrieu and Côte-Rôtie.
Although young, Xavier is a traditionalist at heart (a good thing too, if you ask us) and the wines reflect that. This does mean that the wines, the Côte-Rôtie especially, don't have the immediate, up-front appeal that using lots of new oak barrels gives a young wine.
But patience is a virtue and those prepared to wait just a bit longer are rewarded with profound, deeply pleasing wines that have a strong local identity.
Johann Michel, St Péray (Cornas, St Péray)
We thought we'd made a real discovery with Johann Michel: a super-talented young winemaker who nobody had heard of. Well the locals obviously knew of his reputation - his annual production of St Péray was selling out in a month - but still, it's always good to spread the word a little wider. And then we found out that the world's most influential wine critic, Robert Parker, had given Johann's wines 90+/100. Not so unknown then. Oh well…
None of that stops these being great wines and Johann being a nice guy.
Jean-Marie Lombard, Livron (Brézème)
In the dark days of the 1970s Jean-Marie kept Brézème winemaking alive almost single-handedly - it was the great Hermitage winemaker, Gérard Chave, who encouraged Jean-Marie to start making wine for himself when previously the grapes from his tiny ¼ hectare (roughly ½ acre) vineyard had gone to a local co-operative.
He now has over 7 hectares (18 acres), so he must be doing something right. On the other hand, Brezeme's total vineyard area is still only 33 ha - smaller than one or two English wine estates, never mind anything in the Rhône - so hardly big business either.
Julien Montagon & Emmanuelle Horand, Domaine Lombard
Jean-Marie Lombard retired recently, and chose Julien and Emmanuelle to take over. Previously established as winemakers in the Languedoc Roussillon area, they are already researching some changes for the future.
With their youth, talent and passion, and standing on such mighty shoulders, we can't wait to find out what the future brings.
Daniel Begouaussel, Beaumes de Venise (Muscat de BdV, BdV Rouge, Côtes du Rhône, Ventoux)
Daniel's Domaine Baumalric estate has been up and running since 1991 and is now officially organic. Our guide first came across his muscat at what was his favourite restaurant in Nyons (now sadly changed hands) and instantly loved its honeyed texture and piercing elderflower aromas. It took a while before he got a chance to taste the rest of the range, but it lives up to the same standards.
Christelle Betton, Roche de Glun (Crozes-Hermitage and Hermitage)
Charming, friendly and passionate about wine, Christelle recently took over the running of the Domaine Roland Betton estate from her father and has already begun to win medals.
By her own admission, she speaks English "like a Spanish cow" and the estate buildings aren't much to look at, but the wines are delicious and include a prized white Hermitage from the family's tiny vineyard on the hill, in addition to white and red Crozes-Hermitage.