'JLL's site is the antithesis of James Suckling’s and Jancis Robinson's sites in terms of slickness, structure and functionality, but it just oozes class, passion, personality and knowledge. Unlike burghound.com, this is a site dripping with love and soul, not legal and commercial mumbo-jumbo'.
The quintessential Englishman, he is dapper, erudite, affable and quick-witted, like Colin Cowdrey, the former England Cricket batsman. JLL is the master of his specialist area, the wines of the Northern and Southern Rhone, whilst also practising as a communication training expert.
Like Cowdrey, he has amazing longevity. He has been batting at the crease in the Rhone valley for over 40 years and his mastery of its characters, nuances and old wines is unrivalled. He was learning about this area nearly a decade before Parker discovered it. Key players in the region such as Christine Vernay and her husband Paul Anseleme venerate him for his vast knowledge going back to the days when he would wine and dine with Christine’s father, Georges Vernay.
His site is the antithesis of James Suckling’s and Jancis’ sites in terms of slickness, structure and functionality, but despite its clunkiness (although I notice that JLL has just upgraded his site), it just oozes class, passion, personality and knowledge. Like Meadow’s site, burghound.com, this is a stellar example of the online specialist communicator. But unlike burghound.com, this is a site dripping with love and soul, not legal and commercial mumbo-jumbo.
I admit that I am a Rhone fanatic so have a soft spot for this site. It is full of information gathered over 40 years and John allows you to access it in many ways. You have regular monthly updates on what has been happening in the region and extensive tasting notes and information about each appellation in the North and South Rhone, from the well known to small artisan wine growers. It also has a glossary of terms.
I love his features of ‘Goings on’, ‘Veterans corner’ and ‘Where to eat and stay’. He also makes a big play on WOW wines (‘what one wants’ – or wines which immediately declare pleasure) and STGT (soil to glass transfer - wines that are very low on intervention, that reflect truthfully their place of origin). He gets excited about these wines, the grower being undoubtedly aware of the importance of terroir, and of his or her role in coaxing that out. Coverage of up and coming areas – Rasteau, Roaix, Cairanne….
There is also a quality of fun and joie de vivre about John who is a horse lover and keen gambler. He loves these wines, their people and region and that shines through in his oeuvre.
I think it is a site for the trade or expert consumer because his notes are quite technical and he focuses on depth of content in his specialist area.
I drink a lot of the wines which feature on his site and I think he has an exquisite palate. He has an eloquent, descriptive and old fashioned style of writing. Take Clusel Roch’s Les Grandes Places from 2009 which he gives top marks to:
“(cask) dark red, black at the centre. Good ensemble on a substantial bouquet – baked fruits, a hint of dates from ripe, not overdone fruit. There are wafts of smoke in what is a full, but lucid nose – a mark of its quality. This is very well-constituted, has real good togetherness of its elements, a sealed-up quality. It builds as it goes, has finesse and strokeable black fruit that culminates in a licorice and an oak sprinkle. The tannins are fresh, live. Has the reserve of the northern zone, but ripe and good quality fruit wins the day. This can become complex, has pure qualities, is STGT. I just prefer the Viallière 2009. 2026-29. Bottling Aug 2011. Nov 2010”.
Here are my scores for John and drinkrhone.com: