It’s no secret that we are big fans of Syrah and that there has been no shortage of Syrahs in the club’s selections over the years. So, it’s quite surprising that we’ve never before had a wine from Syrah’s home turf, the Northern Rhone. Winemakers from outside the Rhone will often acknowledge the famous appellations there as the inspirations for their wines, as Andrew Murray does with his Roasted Slope (Cote Rotie), so it is high time we brought in the real deal!
St. Joseph (sahn jo-SEPH) hugs the Rhone river on its west side with the vineyards cascading down the steep granite slopes towards the river, facing east. The soils here are almost all granite: there is none of the alpine glacial influences you get across the river in Hermitage or Crozes-Hermitage, none of the schist that you get in large parts of Cote Rotie, and very little of the sand or limestone that you find in Cornas. St. Joseph is, therefore, unique. And while the other appellations have enjoyed more general acclaim, global warming has now turned those East-facing vineyards into a plus and St. Joseph is what people in the wine business love to drink when they feel like having a minor splurge.
Domaine Rousset is run by the 10th and 11th generations, Robert and Stephane Rousset, using organic and biodynamic farming techniques and minimal interventions in the cellar. The grapes are mostly destemmed, depending on the vintage, with older and larger oak casks and barrels keeping their influence in the background. There is so much going on in this wine: flavors of soy marinated, pepper and spice rubbed meat, red and black berries turning to dried on the finish, black plums, a subtle hint of dark chocolate and red licorice, dried flowers, dusty earth and gravel, black olive. The body of the wine is medium with medium tannins and acid, and a little more than medium alcohol, giving intense flavors and a long finish. Incredibly versatile for pairing, but a stew when the weather cools would be fabulous.