92 points Jeb Dunnuck
"A year in, year out no-brainer purchase is the classic release from Le Couroulu. The 2015 Vacqueyras Classique is no exception and offers classic notes of garrigue, black cherries, raspberries and leafy herbs. Medium to full-bodied, ripe, front-end loaded and impeccably balanced, drink this total charmer anytime over the coming 5-7 years. The blend is 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah and the balance Mourvèdre, raised all in concrete tanks."
90-92 points Vinous
Deep ruby. Spice-accented aromas of cassis and blueberry, joined by a slowly emerging smoky nuance. Densely packed black and blue fruit and dark chocolate flavors turn sweeter with air; juicy acidity and a peppery element provide lift and cut. Fine-grained tannins frame the finish, which echoes the cherry and licorice notes."
90 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
"The supple, charming 2015 Vacqueyras Cuvee Classique delivers less intensity than the Vieilles Vignes, but this medium-bodied blend of 65% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 15% Mourvèdre still offers plenty to like, from savory herb and green olive complexity to ripe mixed berries and a silky finish. (JC) A longtime reference point for Vacqueyras, Domaine de Couroulu's distinctive label with the curlew on it has remained essentially unchanged for decades. Proprietor Guy Ricard says the birds aren't as common as they once were, but that they still stop by during their seasonal migrations. The wines here are completely destemmed, then made in concrete and aged in foudres, offering a pretty much unadulterated look at the appellation's terroir. "I prefer to preserve the acidity and pick when the Grenache still has little red fruits," Ricard told me, perhaps accounting for why his wines offer so much spice. He says both 2015 and 2016 are good years, but he suggests drinking the 2016s first."
"Lovely iodine and leather character here – proper maturity and reach, with a lovely bitter juniper note to finish. Fruit is still ripe and thick. Lovely state of maturity. 17/20 points. (RH)" (10/2018)
Vinous Reverie Notes
Jancis Robinson - Wine of the Week
"Of the 972 Rhône wines I tasted this autumn, only eight made my shortlist to feature as wine of the week – and all of them were made by Le Couroulu in Vacqueyras.
There are other domaines whose wines scored as highly, and indeed higher – but they are usually already well-known and almost invariably expensive. There are other domaines who make great wine but in quantities too small to be easily found, and others still who make one very good wine but several other duds.
Whereas Le Couroulu delivers the WOW holy trinity: affordability, availability and dependability.
They produce two Vacqueyras reds, labelled Cuvée Classique and Vieilles Vignes. I tasted the 2017 vintage of both wines blind and scored them 17. I then tasted the three preceding vintages of both cuvées at the domaine, and gave all but one of them at least the same score or higher. Hence I am recommending either bottling from any vintage. (Our tasting notes database reveals that Jancis has also rated their wines highly).
So much for the reasoning, but what of the wine itself? Both are based on Grenache, the beating heart of the southern Rhône, which gives the pure, rich red fruit that has made Châteauneuf so popular. Both also have at least 25% Syrah that adds black fruit flavours as well as something more peppery. The concentration of that fruit varies with each vintage, with the cooler 2014 offering a lighter, more herbal quality that I especially liked. (I purchased a bottle of the 2014 Vieilles Vignes and opened it this week for verification purposes).
They are savoury, gastronomic and satisfying, with the full weight and muscular structure of the southern Rhône, but effortless balance too, and a sense of freshness that is frequently missing from a region that too often pursues power above all.
They are as thoroughbred as good Châteauneuf-du-Pape without trying so hard to impress, and come at much better prices. The Vieilles Vignes costs a few quid more, for which you get more concentration and perhaps greater ageability, but not a categorically 'better' wine. Both are authentic, traditional styles that will tick all the boxes for lovers of southern Rhône reds..."
Le Couroulu (the name means curlew in Provençal, as the label suggests) is one of those sweet-spot producers whose wines are a joy to discover.
Winery: Domaine le Couroulu, founded in 1928 and still owned by the Ricard family, is known for producing some of the most full-bodied Vacqueyras and other wines from their 20 hectares of old Grenache and Syrah vines. The estate is named for the Curlew bird, which is known in Provencal dialect as Couroulu, and is the signature emblem on the domaine’s labels. Robert Parker rated the estate as an excellent producer in his book, Wines of the Rhone Valley, and cited it among his “Best European Wine Values.” Most recently, he bestowed even more praise, asserting that “this is a sensational estate… whose wines have given [him] enormous pleasure for nearly two decades”