Domaine Rousset

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.

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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.

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Domaine Rousset - 2017 Crozes Hermitage Rouge Les Picaudières

Price: $39.00
Size: 750ml
Availability: 

Out of stock

Type of Wine: Red
Grape(s): Syrah
Style: Mineral, Rich, Rustic, Medium Body

The Wine

One of the most singular terroirs in Crozes-Hermitage, Les Picaudières, is a sort of fusion between Côte-Rôtie-like elegance, with its penetrating mineral textures and fiery red notes, and an Hermitage-like richness, upfront earthiness and darker fruit. The plot is a small hike away, into the forests that surround the vineyard on every side except on the ridgeline, tucked in the hills just a few kilometers behind Hermitage. This arboreal setting, along with its mixture of igneous granite and some sort of metamorphic rock (as noted by the geologist, Brenna Quigley, during a visit with me there in 2017 when she explained that it wasn’t so clear how to categorize it) creates a wine tailored for those seeking an experience, not merely a wine among many to be casually slurped down. The reason is simply that Les Picaudières, like so many other compelling wines, takes some time after it’s opened to reach its optimal moment and will reward the patient drinker as it unspools one complex layer after another. Its ability to blossom and expand in weight and textural profundity place it among the most noteworthy of wines in the Northern Rhône Valley, especially for its humble price when compared to the other greats in the region. -TV

Google 3-D Image of Rousset's Crozes-Hermitage Les Picaudières. Once on this link, if you move toward the south you will go over the top of Hermitage, followed by the Chassis plain and into view of the Crozes-Hermitage terraces south and east of Mercurol, and Saint-Joseph to the left (west). There is a lot of vineyard land in this appellation and it's a very different landscape than what is Rousset's communes: Érôme, Gervans and the village of Crozes-Hermitage. There is nothing quite like Les Picaudières, alone and surrounded by forests on steep slopes, high altitude and unique geology for the area.

INFORMATION DISCLAIMER

Terroir: East of Erôme and Gervans, two of Crozes-Hermitage’s granite terroirs, lies Les Picaudières, perhaps the most singular terroir within the entire appellation. An unexpected fusion of Côte-Rôtie-like elegance with penetrating mineral textures and Hermitage’s rich, upfront earthiness and darker fruit, it is indeed unique, especially to its own appellation of humble terroirs. A small hike is required to reach the vineyard tucked a few kilometers on the backside of Hermitage, back into a forest that surrounds the vineyard on all sides, except the ridgeline. A mixture of some kind of metamorphic stone and igneous granite, Les Picaudières is tailored for those who seek an experience, not merely a wine among many to be casually slurped down. This wine can stun the patient drinker as it unspools one complexity after another, reaching an unexpected weight and textural profundity reserved for only the best in show from the entire Northern Rhône Valley. It seems a bold statement, but given the proper time this wine will compete.

Vinification: Once picked, the grapes are typically destemmed; however, exceptions may be made depending on the vintage, like in 2018 where 80% of the stems were left in the vat to bring more freshness to this atypically warm year. Spontaneous yeast fermentation takes place in stainless steel vats and pumpover extractions are principally made at the beginning but cease once the fermentation begins to slow; this is to avoid too much extraction of harder tannins from the seeds. Time on skins before pressing can be up to a month in order to move past some primary fruit and superficial fermentative aromas. This brings more emphasis to the wine’s deeper complexities earlier on in the wine’s life. Once pressed, settled and racked into barrel it undergoes malolactic fermentation naturally.

Aging: The aging takes place with 60% of the wine in stainless steel vats and 40% in small French oak barrels with an average age of five years, and less than 5% new wood in total. New wood is brought in only to replace spent barrels.

(Subjective and based on young wines)

General Impressions:

Slow Starter, Powerful Finisher, Deeply Complex, Heavy Mineral and Metal Textures, Profound, Red and Dark Fruit, Earthy

Mineral Impressions:

Lightly SaltySaltyMetalMineralWet StoneFlintGraphiteReductivePetrol

Ageability:

Drink YoungShort-Term BenefitsLong-Term BenefitsUnknown

Technical Precision:

NatureModerateNurture

Intensity:

SubtleVigorousElectric

Core:

LitheMediumDense

Acidity:

LightMediumFullElectric

Texture:

LitheMediumDense

Body:

LightMediumFull

Tannin:

NoneLightMediumFull

Finish:

FrontMiddleBack

Wood Presence:

NoneSubtleNoticeable

The Vineyard

Soil:

Metamorphic and igneous bedrock–likely a combination of schist and granite. The shallow topsoil mostly stone derived from the bedrock with a sandy and gravelly grain.

Farming:

SustainableOrganic CertifiedBiodynamic CertifiedUncertified Naturalist

Irrigation:

ForbiddenNeverSometimes

Vine Age:

Average of 50 years (2019); 8000 vines per hectare

Aspect:

South

Slope:

Extremely Steep and Terraced
(typical numbers; not vintage specific)

Enological Additions:

Sulfites

Total SO2:

None AddedVery LowLowMediumHigh

Notes compiled in 2019 by Ted Vance and Rachel Kerswell (The Source) and Stéphane Rousset

About The Wine

One of the most singular terroirs in Crozes-Hermitage, Les Picaudières, is a sort of fusion between Côte-Rôtie-like elegance, with its penetrating mineral textures and fiery red notes, and an Hermitage-like richness, upfront earthiness and darker fruit. The plot is a small hike away, into the forests that surround the vineyard on every side except on the ridgeline, tucked in the hills just a few kilometers behind Hermitage. This arboreal setting, along with its mixture of igneous granite and some sort of metamorphic rock (as noted by the geologist, Brenna Quigley, during a visit with me there in 2017 when she explained that it wasn’t so clear how to categorize it) creates a wine tailored for those seeking an experience, not merely a wine among many to be casually slurped down. The reason is simply that Les Picaudières, like so many other compelling wines, takes some time after it’s opened to reach its optimal moment and will reward the patient drinker as it unspools one complex layer after another. Its ability to blossom and expand in weight and textural profundity place it among the most noteworthy of wines in the Northern Rhône Valley, especially for its humble price when compared to the other greats in the region. -TV

Google 3-D Image of Rousset’s Crozes-Hermitage Les Picaudières. Once on this link, if you move toward the south you will go over the top of Hermitage, followed by the Chassis plain and into view of the Crozes-Hermitage terraces south and east of Mercurol, and Saint-Joseph to the left (west). There is a lot of vineyard land in this appellation and it’s a very different landscape than what is Rousset’s communes: Érôme, Gervans and the village of Crozes-Hermitage. There is nothing quite like Les Picaudières, alone and surrounded by forests on steep slopes, high altitude and unique geology for the area.