From one of our most-successful collaborations, we are delighted to announce the addition of a very famous region to the upper reaches of the tree - Cuilleron's outstanding Saint-Joseph.
Made exclusively from Syrah grapes, the vines for this wine are grown on the steep slopes at the northern part of the Saint-Joseph appellation. This is a wine that is bright, fresh and bursting with flavours of black cherry, redcurrant, plum and spice, but all wrapped up in a smooth, balanced and deliciously textured body.
This is a stunning red from one of the northern Rhone's top producers.
If you like the idea of Hermitage or Côte Rotie but balk at the prices, then this is for you. If you only want to buy one really, really good bottle of French red, then, again, this is certainly for you. It's even from a very famous village itself.
Saint-Joseph is a great name to head for as reference in a wine shop. Very consistent standards, all of them are a good deal above bang-average in quality, there aren't too many producers exporting and those that do are often at the top of the Rhône tree. Good. But it's seldom that straight-forward with quality wine appellations and, in this case, the case of Saint-Joseph, the story is really interesting because the zone is far more than just a nice address.
It's a region that covers a lot of land - from Côte-Rôtie in the north to Cornas in the south, it overlaps with the vineyards of Condrieu (beside Côte-Rôtie) and passes the town of Tain l'Hermitage (with its famous hill) to the south, continuing past the stretches of Crozes Hermitage. In all, it covers a stretch of between fifty five and sixty kilometres in length: which is gigantic in vineyard terms! Imagine the potential differences in the wines over such a stretch of land and microclimate... However, there are surprising consistencies throughout the region, namely the approach to the Rhône river itself. Most of the slopes, which are almost all on the west, facing south and east, are planted against single stakes in the ground and are on aspects that are very steeply sloped. The soil in which they are planted also gives us a clues as to the quality - it's almost all granite, unlike the sandy-limestone of the Crozes-Hermitage on the other side of the river in the south, and pretty much identical to the vineyards of Hermitage itself. It is, in fact, a very serious appellation and definitely worthy of the reputation it carries. It gives wines that are stylistically similar to Crozes-Hermitage, but also very different. If that's not too much to consider.
But even with similarities, not all of Saint-Joseph sites produce the same style of fruit - north to south, you can see why - so it can be useful to know if your producer uses a particular spot, or if they blend from the whole region... Yves uses grapes that come from his back garden, essentially, which is the village of Chavanay, right up in the north of the appellation, bordering Côte-Rôtie and Condrieu. This gives a touch more dark fruit and richness than you'll find in other producers' wines and a little more tannic grip than you'll get in his own Crozes-Hermitage.
This champion wine-maker of the Rhone produces some of the most exclusive wines in the region. Cuilleron knows exactly what each plot is able to yield in terms of quality, style and character and in that regard is a master of all of the vines he tends. This wine is made from the best selection of vines on the hills next to the most famed sites in the Rhône, and they are a selection found only on shallow, sandy, granitic soils that are so special to Saint Joseph. This base provides a superb platform for the grapes to ripen with minimal intervention from the vineyard team, who, in truth, only fertilise when necessary with organic fertilisers and don't even spray with insecticides. The result is this wonderfully complex, rich and pure varietal wine that is then treated like royalty (in the positive sense). It has a slow fermentation of about three weeks in open-top fermenters before being transferred to barriques where maloc-lactic fermentation takes place during its 18-month aging, providing the wine with some oak flavour, but, better still, balance, complexity and space for the delivery of its charming character. A very special wine with totally integrated, mild tannins - perfect for drinking now and for up to a decade.
"Les Pierres Sèches" is not a reference to a group of non-drinking chums called Pete, but instead refers to the traditional dry-stone walls that are a significant feature of the region, where they support the steeply-terraced vineyards.
It's from the excellent 2021 vintage and though it's youthful for northern Rhône reds, I'd always ask myself if it is ready for drinking; in other words, is there any aspect of the wine that isn't quite right, or that will be ironed-out, or better in a year or so. The answer here, because of the skill of the winemaker, is no! It's perfectly ready to drink and there is nothing I'd want change now. It will develop and change subtly in time, but it won't get any better, nor any worse.
2021 was a nearly perfect vintage in the Northern Rhone and while other regions may have struggled, the Northern Rhone saw the best estates prepared and able to handle the weather to their advantage, even with smaller yields.
Top producer Jerome Coursodon summed it up like this: "The great news is that the result is exceptional both in a normal quantity and in a classically chiselled vintage with great balance and acidity, with alcohol between 12 and 13.2. I can’t wait to watch 2021 develop over the years. It could turn out to be one of the truly superb Northern Rhone vintages for in some time, without the excess sun that we’ve been used to recently."
Region: Rhone Valley
Style: Svelte, Structured, Pure, Organic, Medium Full, Iconic, Fresh, Fleshy, Dark, Complex
Best food matches: Venison, Tuna, Tapas, Steak, Roasts, Red Meats, Poultry, Mature Cheeses, Hard Cheeses, Grills, Fine Dining, Cheeses, Charcuterie, Beef, Barbecue