New Customers Save $20 off $100+* with code FEBNEW20
New Customers Save $20* with code FEBNEW20
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La Ferme des Sept Lunes St.-Joseph 2009
Spanning the longest stretch of river in the northern Rhone—from Condrieu in the north, to Cornas in the south—the heart of St. Joseph lies directly across the Rhone River from Hermitage. While its soils are basically the same as Hermitage: granite, supplemented by sand and gravel, its east facing slope receives less sunlight than Hermitage, which causes less overall berry ripening on its Syrah vines. However, some of the best of them can rival any fine expression of Hermitage, Cote-Rotie or Cornas with concentrated black fruits, dark spices, crushed rock and violets. A general advantage of the region is that its Syrahs typically don’t need as much time in the bottle compared to a Cote-Rotie or Hermitage and are much easier on the bank account!
A textbook St. Joseph red is firm with a core of minerality that is enhanced by savory and peppery qualities. Aromas and flavors of smoke, olives, herbs, and violets are common; its wines are dense in red and black fruit.
St. Joseph is also a source of fine northern Rhone white wine. Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne grow well here and can be blended or made into single varietal wines. St. Joseph whites are full and silky with citrus, pear and pineapple flavors and a rich bouquet reminiscent of honeysuckle, toasted nuts, spice and caramel.
With bold fruit flavors and accents of spice, Rhône red blends originated in France’s Southern Rhône valley and have become popular in Priorat, Washington, South Australia, and California’s Central Coast. In the Rhône itself, 19 grape varieties are permitted for use, but many of these blends, are based on Grenache and supported by Syrah and Mourvèdre, earning the nickname “GSM blends.” Côtes du Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape are perhaps the best-known outposts for these wines. Other varieties that may be found in Rhône blends include Carignan, Cinsault, and Counoise.
In the Glass
The taste profile of a Rhône blend will vary according to its individual components, as each variety brings something different to the glass. Grenache, which often forms the base of these blends, is the lightest in color but contributes plenty of ripe red fruit, a plush texture, and often high levels of alcohol. Syrah supplies darker fruit flavors, along with savory, spicy, and meaty notes. Mourvèdre is responsible for a floral perfume as well as body, tannin, and a healthy dose of color. New World examples will lie further along the fruit-forward end of the spectrum, while those from the Old World taste and smell much earthier, often with a “barnyard” character that is attractive to many fans of these wines.
Rhône red blends typically make for very food-friendly wines. Depending on the weight and alcohol level, these can work with a wide variety of meat-based dishes—they play equally well with beef, pork, duck, lamb, or game. With their high acidity, these wines are best-matched with salty or fatty foods, and can handle the acidity of tomato sauce in pizza or pasta. Braised beef cheeks, grilled lamb sausages, or roasted squab are all fine pairings.
Some regions like to put their own local spin on the Rhône red blend—for example, in Australia’s Barossa Valley, Shiraz is commonly blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to add structure, tannin, and a long finish. Grenache-based blends from Priorat often include Carignan (known locally as Cariñena) and Syrah, but also international varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In California, anything goes, and it is not uncommon to see Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, or even Tempranillo make an appearance.