Domaine Rousset

Domaine Rousset winemaker
Rousset vineyards

The Story

Stéphane Rousset’s are the kind of terroir driven wines that get us fired up. There’s no tomfoolery, just solid craftsmanship and a clear concession of the vigneron’s voice for that of his terroirs. Stéphane Rousset is one to watch; for no other reason than he lets great terroirs direct his path to elegant, pure wines of substance. He is a vigneron in the truest sense of the word, and from the first smell to the last sip, each bottle sings the melody of the land from which it was born.

The Roussets are blessed with great vineyards in Crozes-Hermitage, aside from Les Picaudières, and a terrific set of side-by-side, east-facing granite parcels in the lieu-dit, Rivoires, across the river, in Saint-Joseph, which just happen to be right around the corner from the original hill from which Saint-Joseph takes its name.

With his rough, intense look, Stéphane gives the impression he might be a tough guy to squeeze for information, but he’s quite the opposite. On our first visit, Stéphane and his wife, Isabelle, showed us the best of French hospitality, their gorgeous vineyards, and a beautifully run (and very clean!) cellar. To work with such talented and gracious people as the Roussets is the motivation behind everything we do as wine importers.

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Stéphane and his father, Robert, both tend to the vineyard work. This virtual two man show practices extremely high grade sustainable farming and when walking through their vineyards it becomes obvious. They respect the soil and nature, and minimize the use of vineyard treatments to copper and sulfur, both treatments essential in all European vineyards whether they are in organic, biodynamic and/or natural winegrowing culture.

In the cellar it’s pretty straightforward and, like many of the cellars in the Northern Rhône Valley, their approach is quite similar to what one would see in a California wine cellar making Syrah. The use of French oak barrels of 225- to 500-liters is employed with a minimum of new oak mixed in only to replace barrels that are in disrepair. Certain proportions of the basic red Crozes-Hermitage is aged in stainless steel, seemingly parcels on granite bedrock with loess topsoil, and then blended in with some of the wines raised in barrels from parcels that are largely grown in granite bedrock with decomposed granite topsoil. The Crozes-Hermitage Rouge “Les Picaudieres” and the Saint-Joseph are raised exclusively in oak barrels with a minuscule amount of them new. As a side note, Rousset has a fabulous collection of single parcel Crozes-Hermitage vineyards that I’ve encouraged him to bottle alone. Hopefully this will come to fruition someday.

His whites made from Marsanne are mostly aged in stainless steel tanks and a proportion of French oak barrels. The stainless is employed as well as the desire to inhibit malolactic fermentation to preserve the elusive freshness whites from this region have a hard time maintaining. All in all, I would characterize the wines made at this domaine as straightforward, made in a humble way to emphasize the voice of their special terroirs and very well crafted.

To read more about Rousset, there is short series I wrote with a little perspective on the history of Rousset and how he came about one of the most enviable collection of vineyards of all of Crozes-Hermitage, all tucked behind the great hillside of Hermitage. Read it here.

Lay of the Land

One of the most diverse appellations in France’s Northern Rhone Valley, Crozes-Hermitage is also its biggest. Rousset’s vineyards lie in its most northern communes of Erôme, Gervans, and Crozes-Hermitage (the village the appellation takes its name from). The soil types here differ greatly from the rest of the appellation. Here you find vines on steep terraces of the river’s left bank, above the Rhône and tucked back behind the behemoth hill of Hermitage.

Wine-wise, this appellation is home to France’s noble and rustic red, Syrah. In the three original appellations the soil for Syrah is largely granitic (and many small variations of igneous and metamorphic stones, as is the case for his Crozes-Hermitage vineyard, Les Picaudières). The whites dwell mostly on loess, a fine-grained crystalline soil that was blown in by the wind. Loess is a slightly yellowish white color, rich in minerals and calcium, perfect for Marsanne, the principal white grape. Of course most vineyards are a mixture of the two, but this is a reasonably good rule of thumb.

Across the river, in Tournon, Rousset’s two parcels of St. Joseph are on pure granitic soils. In my humble opinion, in this appellation few, if any, vignerons produce wines above this in class and elegance.

To read a more thorough account of the lay of this land, check out an article I wrote about the background of the Roussets and the landscape of Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph here.

Crozes Hermitage Les Picaudieres

Domaine Rousset - 2015 Crozes Hermitage Rouge Les Picaudieres

Price: $39.00
Size: 750ml
Availability:

Out of stock

Type of Wine: Red
Style: Rustic, Medium Body

The Wine

From just east of Erôme and Gervans lies this lieu-dit of Crozes-Hermitage, one of most special parcels in the appellation. Reaching it requires a small hike, as the vineyards are tucked back into the forest­­­­. A mixture of some kind of metamorphic stone and granite, the soil produces Crozes-Hermitage tailored for those who value elegance and structure in the same wine—unsurprisingly reminiscent of the granitic western flank of Hermitage. It’s stunning and, with time in the glass, will transport your imagination to some sort of ancient, primal (but pure and clean) vision of Syrah before modernity set in.

About The Wine

From just east of Erôme and Gervans lies this lieu-dit of Crozes-Hermitage, one of most special parcels in the appellation. Reaching it requires a small hike, as the vineyards are tucked back into the forest­­­­. A mixture of some kind of metamorphic stone and granite, the soil produces Crozes-Hermitage tailored for those who value elegance and structure in the same wine—unsurprisingly reminiscent of the granitic western flank of Hermitage. It’s stunning and, with time in the glass, will transport your imagination to some sort of ancient, primal (but pure and clean) vision of Syrah before modernity set in.