A View of Northern Rhone’s Saint-Joseph through Three Wines #Winophiles

French Winophiles Explore Wines of the Northern Rhone
This month, our Winophiles group is traveling (virtually of course) to the Northern Rhone. Less than an hour south of Lyon by car or train, the vineyards hug the Rhone river as it travels south to the Mediterranean. The chief grapes in the North are Syrah for red wines, and Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier for white wines. Take a look at the bottom of this post for links to a whole list of posts for your exploration!

(click on a photo below to show full size slideshow)

Insight into a Few Appellations
Why some appellations are more highly regarded than others can be seen by a look at the maps above and the photos below. Hermitage is one of the two most highly regarded appellations. It just so happens the granite based hill at Tain l’Hermitage sits at a bend in the Rhone river allowing the hill full southern exposure; perfect for ripening Syrah, Marsanne and Roussanne grapes.

Immediately across the river sits the village of Tournon at the northern end of the long Saint-Joseph appellation. The hillside immediately behind the village offers the same steep granite soil, but the ridge faces much more easterly, not quite so favorable to achieve that perfect ripening. While the Saint Joseph appellation is long, most of the vineyards sit on that steep hillside ridge along the Rhone.

Finally, the Crozes-Hermitage appellation is adjacent to Hermitage. However, the appellation extends out into the large flat plain away from the river, and the soils are different, based on pebbles and red clay. While Crozes-Hermitage may lack some of the grandeur of the highly regarded appellations, the land is more easily farmed and the wines are both delicious and affordable. They are a great introduction to the whole region.

A Sampling of Saint-Joseph in Minnesota
I wasn’t planning to showcase the Saint-Joseph wines in the snow, but such is life in Minnesota. Every April, we hope that spring really has arrived, and often Mother Nature has a few tricks left up her sleeve. No matter, the snow doesn’t last and we know that spring will come. Sometime.

Disclaimer: The wines for this post were provided as samples. No other compensation was involved.  All opinions are my own.

I was not expecting this to be a snow photo, but such is Minnesota in April!

Comparing Three Saint-Joseph Wines
What a treat to be able to compare wines side by side from one appellation and three noted winemakers. Not to choose the best, as each had their own charms. It was enjoyable to sample the different styles each of the wines portrayed, all within a traditional framework.

Pierre et Jérôme Coursodon “Silice” Saint Joseph Rouge

Domaine Coursodon
You can find more information about Domaine Coursodon here: link The following is provided by the winery:

“The estate was founded in 1930 by Antonin and Jean-Auguste Coursodon. Currently Pierre manages the vineyards while his son, Jérôme (fifth-generation), is at the helm of winemaking. They produce expressive Syrah (90% of production), and Marsanne and Roussanne wines in Saint-Joseph. Pierre deems vineyard management crucial to making high quality wine, and Jérôme practices traditional winemaking techniques while implementing modern innovations. Vineyards are primarily located in Mauves, while others are in the communes of Glun, Tournon and Saint-Jean-of-Muzols.”

Pierre et Jerome Coursodon Saint-Joseph AOC “Silice” 2016 (sample, $50 SRP or online here) 14% abv
Eye: Clear, medium ruby
Nose: Medium intensity, aromas of ripe blackberries, black cherries, blueberries, leather, violets, black pepper
Mouth: Dry, medium+ intensity flavors. Medium+ acidity, medium fine grained tannins, medium+ body, high alcohol, medium finish. Flavors follow the nose closely, with ripe dark fruits, earth and a touch of pepper.
Conclusions: A very good quality wine. The Silice Rouge was the most savory, earth dominant of the three wines.

Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Saint-Joseph Rouge

Domaine Jean-Louis Chave
Domaine Jean-Louis Chave has a long history in the Northern Rhone, stretching back to the 1500’s. We had a rare opportunity to visit Domaine Jean-Louis Chave a few years ago. My posts on our visit are located here, here and here. Here are some recent notes provided by the winery:

“The Chave family has been growing vines in the Northern Rhône since 1491 and remain committed to the production of some of the finest Syrah, Marsanne, and Roussanne wines from the region. The Chave’s winemaking philosophy is traditional farming, low yields, full ripeness, and minimal intervention. Their unmatched meticulousness continues over five centuries to render venerable expressions of the purest Rhône terroir. It is now led by Jean-Louis Chave with the guidance of his father, Gérard. Jean-Louis joined his father in the early 1990’s after completing his degree in oenology. In the mid-90’s Jean-Louis replanted vines and rebuilt the vineyards on the family’s original estate in Saint-Joseph. Today, he continues to champion the region.”

Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Saint-Joseph AOC 2016 (sample, $80 SRP or online here) 14% abv
Eye: Clear, deep ruby
Nose: Clean, medium+ intensity aromas of sweet ripe strawberries, blackberries, black plums with a strong component of earth and a bit of barnyard and roasting meat.
Mouth: Dry, medium+ intensity flavors. Medium acidity, medium silky tannins. Medium+ body, medium alcohol, medium+ finish. The flavors follow the aromas with addition of an herbal, rosemary element.
Conclusions: A very good quality wine, the JL Chave showed a beautiful blend of fruit, herbs and earth.

One additional note on JL Chave wines: Domain JL Chave also has a label “JL Chave Selections”. These wines are made from Chave vines which are less than 15 years old or from purchased grapes from other growers they trust. The wines are very good and very affordable, another great introduction to the Northern Rhone. JL Chave Selections Saint Joseph “Offerus” is one of these wines.

Domaine Faury Saint Joseph Rouge

Domaine Faury
Domaine Faury’s website is only in French, so Google Chrome will be your friend: here. Here is some information provided by the winery:

“Domaine Faury is situated along the steep, narrow valley that traces the northern Rhône appellations of Côte-Rôtie, Condrieu and Saint-Joseph. When Philippe Faury took over the domaine in 1979, the family was selling wine, peaches and cherries, and the bulk of their clientele was local. He has since grown the holdings and expanded wine production to 27 acres. In 2006, Philippe’s son Lionel took over the domaine. Unlike many other winemakers in the region, the Faurys have a strong aversion to new oak. Although red wine sees time in barrels, there is a rotation between new and old along with sizes. Their wines are known for rustic elegance coupled with ripe and fresh flavors.”

Domaine Faury Saint Joseph AOC 2017 (sample, $43 SRP or online here) 13% abv
Eye: Clear, deep ruby
Nose: Clean, medium+ intensity aromas clearly dominated by fruit. Fresh, ripe strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, violets, fresh green garden herbs – tarragon.
Mouth: Dry, medium intensity flavors. Medium acidity, medium fine grained tannins. Medium body, medium alcohol, medium finish. Flavors are clearly led by the fruit.
Conclusions: A very good quality wine, the Domaine Faury was the most clearly fruit driven of the three wines.

The French #Winophiles Views of the Northern Rhone
Take a look below and you can learn everything you need to know about the Northern Rhone! If you see this soon enough, please join our chat on Twitter on Saturday April 18, 10-11am CDT. Just search for #winophiles!

20 Responses to “A View of Northern Rhone’s Saint-Joseph through Three Wines #Winophiles”
  1. culinarycam says:

    I am shivering just looking at your photos, Jeff. But those wines look fabulous!

  2. Perfect wines for an April snow day! When do you fire up the grill?

  3. Good explanation of why geography and geology matter at this bend of the river – and those photos!

  4. I find it a treat when one can taste wines back to back. Thanks for the great tasting notes and overview of N. Rhone Valley, plus the JL Chave tip. I didn’t know that. Will look for them!

  5. What a journey your photos have taken me on today. Thank you for the stroll through the Northern Rhône as well for a bit of winter, which we almost never get to see. I look forward to seeking out some of these wines and also going back to read your pieces on Chave!

  6. Lynn says:

    That blackberry and earth, I’m a fan of those flavors. And with your prime rib, drooling. Nice pointing out vineyard exposure and the differences in appellations, nice sample bottles too!

  7. Nicole Ruiz Hudson says:

    It’s always so fun to compare wines like this back to back. I hope Spring arrives for real for you very soon!

  8. wendyklik says:

    Luckily we haven’t had that much snow here in Michigan in April but we have had a couple of inches that melted the next day.

  9. Always fun to compare wines side by side. Nothing like Easter in Minnesota….but your food and wine make up for the snowy conditions outside.

  10. Jill Barth says:

    While much of your travels and meals are photogenic, this is an exceptionally lovely piece. And the snow shows off!

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