Andrew Guard

Saint-Joseph & Ardèche

The Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet was created in 1993 by Hervé Souhaut. His holdings on the acidic granite soils of the northern Rhône and the southern Ardèche are a mixture of new and ancient vines — from 50 to100 years old. Hervé's holdings are minuscule, only five hectares and he employs only organic viticulture and natural winemaking techniques. This domaine is one of the most respected producers of wine in the area.

The Vin de Pays "Syrah" grapes come from a tiny parcel of land along the slopes of the Doux River and the vines are on average 40 years old. At the end of September, the grapes are harvested and then undergo a very long maceration at a low temperature without de-stemming. The wine is then matured on fine lees in mature barriques for six months and then bottled without being filtered. Cool climate Syrah tends to have very dynamic aromatics and this beauty has one of the most expansive and pretty profiles I have experienced. Violets, gentle smoke, black cherry, flowers and wet stone all interplay nicely as they billow out of the glass. The palate echoes the aroma however deep black cherry, cool plum and fresh strawberry flavours dominate. The tannins that gradually frame the finish are in the featherweight division and only serve to highlight the vibrant components of this lithe, fresh and captivating Syrah. It is always eagerly sought out by Winemakers as it is so different to what we produce.

The Vin de Pays "La Souteronne" is made from very old Gamay grapes - the vines are between 60 to 80 years old. Winemaking involves a long maceration at low temperature, without de-stemming and the juice is matured on the fine lees, in mature casks from friends, Dard & Ribo. As with all the wines here, it is then bottled without filtration. This is a truly superb fruit driven Gamay with a mountain freshness and an attractive Rhône accent that gives it an incisive, meaty edge.

Of the two red Saint Josephs (again using whole bunches) the Saint-Épine, from one hundred year old Syrah vines grown on the eponymous south facing slope combines exotic perfumed fruit and spice with glorious purity. The proximity of this famous south facing slope to the Hermitage hill and the recognised quality of it's terroir means that it produce's easily the finest and most mineral expression of Saint Joseph.

The Romaneux Destezet Blanc, produced almost entirely from Roussanne with a touch of Viognier is a glorious, floral wine that has freshness and elegance as attributes and avoids the unctuous flabbiness and excessive oakiness that wines from this area can suffer from. It is wonderful and generous but also precise and true.

Written by Andrew Guard — June 16, 2012