Domaine Rousset

Northern Rhône, France

The Story

A gentle, jovial, quiet, and extremely humble man, Stéphane Rousset remains a relatively unknown gem in the Northern Rhône. His wines are built on solid craftsmanship and a clear muting of his voice in deference to those of his terroirs. He makes fabulous Saint-Joseph wines, and his wonderful Crozes-Hermitage selections put a rare face on this lesser-understood and appreciated appellation. The glory of the Northern Rhône Valley rests on Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage and Cornas, and while Saint-Joseph can give them a run for their money, Crozes-Hermitage suffers from its sheer size and ability to produce a great volume of wine from nearly every hectare, which ends up diluting how the appellation is perceived. However, there are some Crozes-Hermitage areas and vineyards that standout among the Crozes crowd—vineyards that share the same geological heritage as some of the aforementioned greats. Those special and overlooked areas are home to this story’s protagonist, Stéphane Rousset. Crozes-Hermitage, the appellation home to the majority of Rousset's collection of vineyards, is the most diverse terroir in this region under the red grape variety, Syrah. (There’s white too, but a much lower production volume.) In this appellation everything from the acidic metamorphic and igneous rocks all the way to alkaline-rich limestones, wind-blown loess and river alluvium can be found. And all occur on various exposures, some on flat land and some on treacherously steep hills (like Rousset’s Les Picaudières) with every possible soil grain, from clay, silt, sand, gravel, cobbles to boulders! Geologically, Crozes-Hermitage is laid out as if Hermitage had been stretched and pulled in every direction away from the river, toward the north, east and south. Read more

Lay of the Land

One of the most diverse appellations in France’s Northern Rhône Valley, Crozes-Hermitage is also its biggest. As already mentioned, Rousset’s vineyards are in its most northern communes: Érôme, Gervans, and Crozes-Hermitage. The soil types and hill structures here differ greatly from the rest of the appellation. They are on moderately steep to very steep igneous rock terraces (with a very small amount of metamorphic rock) of the river’s left bank, above the Rhône and tucked back behind the famous Hermitage hill. Rousset’s vineyards are just north of the Rhône River’s hard left turn that wraps around the south-facing Hermitage. The river carved out this narrow gorge, exposing hard granite rock on each side. This section on the left bank (east side) yields wines of texture and perfume from what we more commonly associate with Cornas and St. Joseph, minus the solar power of those more exposed appellations. Les Picaudières, in the commune Gervans, is historically one of the most revered terroirs inside of Crozes-Hermitage. With its granite and schist-like shards, nearly devoid of topsoil thanks to the steepness of the hill, gravity and hard bedrock, it may be one of the most singular wines from the entire appellation and surely one of its most recognizable when tasted. We haven’t seen or heard much about this historic vineyard from the legend now a few generations past, Raymond Roure, sold to Robert Rousset (Stephane’s father) some decades ago, but its history is worth further investigation. Read more