Fresh from a visit to Saint-Joseph in the Northern Rhône and having attended the trade show Découvertes en Vallée du Rhône in April, Rhône expert Bart Feys reviews the Saint-Joseph wines you need to be thinking of buying from the most recent, excellent vintages of 2016 and 2017. Since its extension in 1969 the Saint-Joseph appellation now covers 1200 hectares from Cornas in the South to Condrieu in the North. As a result, styles can vary but overall Saint-Joseph provides top quality reds and whites that can be drunk earlier than Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie but can also benefit from cellaring.
On my tasting travels through Saint-Joseph I visited some of today’s best known standard bearers for the appellation – Coursodon, Gonon and Gripa – as well as others at their domaines and at the annual Rhône trade show.
Top 5 white Saint-Joseph
Saint-Joseph blanc Le Paradis Saint Pierre, Domaine Courson, 2017
90% Marsanne mostly from Paradis with some fruit from old vines in the Saint-Joseph lieu-dit; very intense floral and honey aromas with a waxy, textured palate, very long and impressive. 12 months élevage in 10% new barriques
Saint-Joseph blanc, Domaine Gripa, 2017
70% Marsanne. Raised in 600 litre demi-muids, only 8% new oak used due to much lower yields in 2017. Typically richer than the Gripa Saint-Péray because of the granitic subsoils, but still retains a wonderful freshness and balance; white flowers and almond notes on the nose with a mineral and savoury/ bitter Marsanne touch.
Saint-Joseph Les Oliviers, Domaine Gonon, 2017
From old vine fruit on the steep Oliviers lieu-dit north of Mauves; 80% Marsanne and 20% Roussanne co-fermented, raised in old oak for 12 months then assembled in steel tank for another 6 months before bottling. Floral, honeysuckle aromas with hints of peach. Textured, herbal, waxy feel to palate. Crisp and very long.
Saint-Joseph blanc, Domaine Jean Claude Marsanne, 2017
Mostly from fruit in the prime Oliviers lieu-dit. Fresh ,white fruited, honeyed and savoury, long and rounded palate.
Saint-Joseph blanc Clef de Sol, Domaine Jolivet, 2017
From 95% Marsanne in Saint-Jean de Muzols; 3 parcels vinified separately, then blended. Ripe, honeyed, full and textured, long and balanced by lemony freshness.
Top 10 red Saint-Joseph
Saint-Joseph, Domaine Gonon, 2017
Incorporates the old vine fruit from Raymond Trollat. Cooler nights have imprinted a fresh and balanced feel; floral notes, blackberries, cherries. Minerality drives the freshness on the palate, structured and very long. All about finesse. Great future ahead.
Saint-Joseph L’Instinct, Domaine Jolivet, 2017
Blended from multiple plots around Saint-Jean de Muzols. 50% whole bunch fermentation, raised in a mix of old and new barrels of various sizes. Classic aromas of blackberries, cherries, forest fruits; long and generous with impressive balance.
Saint-Joseph Le Paradis Saint Pierre, Domaine Coursodon, 2017
From one of the top lieu-dits in Mauves; 80 to 90 year old vines, 50% destemming. Polished and suave blue and black fruits, very structured and framed by crisp acidity. Needs time to blossom, but will shine in 10+ years as exemplified by a recently opened 2009 bottle.
Saint-Joseph rouge, Domaine Gripa, 2017
Mostly from vines in Tournon, average age of vines is 40 years. 25% whole bunches and yield was 30hl/ha. Black cherries, meaty, fresh and fine tannic structure. Wonderful balance.
Blended from old vine fruit in several prime lieu-dits in Mauves and Tournon. Minimal intervention winemaking gives an old school wine with intense black forest fruits, crunchy tannins and a deeply layered finish.
Saint-Joseph lieu-dit Saint-Joseph, Ferraton, 2016
Very small production (<1,000 bottles), 100% destemming, 15% new oak. Dark fruited with tobacco and coffee notes, mineral rocky palate. Needs time to unfurl.
Saint-Joseph Sainte Epine, Delas, 2016
Granitic, steep vineyard with 80 year old vines; fruit destemmed and aged in up to 40% new oak. Very intense, black-fruited, coffee, crisp tannins and mineral, granitic finish, wonderfully balanced. Needs a few years to settle.
Saint-Joseph Les Royes, Domaine Courbis, 2016
From a splendidly steep amphitheatre-like vineyard on limestone, rather than the usual granite. Destemming, 30% new oak. Dark, brooding wine with mineral, crunchy black fruit. Very long and balanced.
Saint-Joseph Lautaret, Domaine Durand, 2016
From a vineyard high up at Chateaubourg, giving ripe fruit with crisp acidity due to the cooler nights. Juicy, compact blue fruit, round and balanced with fresh acidity.
Saint-Joseph SJM, Cave de Tain, 2015
Small terroir-specific cuvée made from fruit harvested in Saint-Jean de Muzols at 150 to 200m altitude