When you consider the miniscule size of the great Northern Rhône appellations – St-Joseph has just 920 hectares under vine, Cornas 90(!) – from which issue some of the most divine, rarest, and most sought-after expressions of the Syrah grape, you have to be grateful for the Collines Rhodaniennes. These are the hillsides of the Rhône valley that lie outside these primo spots but still make for fresh, drinkable, and most importantly affordable wine that carries the unique stamp of the region. Young Aurélien Chatagnier, whose wines we love, makes his Collines Rhodaniennes Syrah from a single vineyard site, Les Mortars, giving it the same organic farming, manual harvest, natural-yeast fermentation, and barrel aging as his more distinguished wines. Nor is it some large-production moneymaker – he makes only about 400 cases of it. Made in his signature clean style, it’s fresh and spicy, concentrated, and impactful. A burst of red cherry and currant fruit starts it off, popping in the mouth with great verve and élan, which leads into the spicy, peppery tannins of the midpalate. A linear and focused wine, with fruit, tannin, acidity, and spice twining around the tongue like grape vines run amok.