Andrew Guard

Saint Joseph

Mauves calls itself “the cradle of Saint-Joseph”, the origination of this appellation. Certainly the best wines of this town, including those which issue from its most famous resident, Gérard Chave, have tremendous perfume, a unique cherry, nut and cocoa character and a certain soothing, coating suppleness even in youth. 

Jean and Pierre Gonon farm 6 acres of Syrah, at Tournon, Mauves and the old vines from the legendary Raymond Trollat at St Jean de Muzols. Combined, this is the original St Joseph area and certainly contains the appellations best terroir. 

Tasting the individual lots of wine at Gonon, each separated by parcel, is in itself a fascinating exhibition of terroirs. In addition, Jean Gonon is constantly experimenting, with youthful eagerness and idealism, to find the most successful variations in vinification for his fruit and it’s terroir. In the final analysis, he compiles one single red wine assemblage.

The Gonon’s pick as late as possible and ferment with wild yeasts. Pigeage is mostly by foot. Aging is 13 to 15 months in 600 litre casks and one old foudre; no new oak. Their wines blossom in a very different way from the wines of the far north of the appellation (where much of the Saint Joseph available in Australia comes from) with their meatiness, tapenade, black fruits and spice. 

Although delicious in its youth, indeed the most charming, gentle and ingratiating Syrah one could imagine, Gonon’s Saint-Joseph will gain nuance with several years in bottle. There is also a fascinating white, bringing together Marsanne and Rousanne: floral and creamy when young, and blossoming into truly fascinating, satisfying complexity only if allowed to undergo a slight sherrification over six or eight years in bottle. I am still trying to persuade Gonon to part with more than a single case! 

“Gonon is the benchmark St-Joseph domaine”  John Livingstone-Learmonth, Wines of the Northern Rhône 


Written by Andrew Guard — June 16, 2012