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 - 2018 Saint-Joseph Rouge

Price: $39.00
Size: 750ml
Availability: 

Out of stock

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

The Wine

Rousset’s single hectare parcel of Saint-Joseph is located in Tournon, one of the appellation’s original six communes prior to a series of expansions. Around the corner from the original hill that gave the appellation its name are Rousset’s two parcels within the lieu-dit, les Rivoires, positioned side-by-side and facing directly east. Rousset’s style focuses on elegance over power, which may be a function of their vineyards on less solar-powered locations (in this case that direct east face loses all the later afternoon burning sun) and the predominance of granite bedrock and topsoil in the collection of vineyards, as much as Stéphane’s deft touch. Compared to Rousset’s other top red, the slow-burning Crozes-Hermitage “Les Picaudières,” this Saint-Joseph is more immediately upfront and continues a slow evolution without straying too far from its original position, which makes it all too easy to drink it quickly. Given its impressiveness and immediacy, this wine may be better suited for a group, whereas Les Picaudières is more for two people who have a lot of curiosity, patience and time. -TV

Google 3-D Image of Saint-Joseph "Les Rivoires": Planted on a steep, east facing granite hill, this area of Saint-Joseph is part of the original zone of Saint-Joseph.

INFORMATION DISCLAIMER

Terroir: Rousset’s one hectare parcel is located in Tournon, one of the appellation’s six original communes of Saint-Joseph. Around the corner from the original hill that gave the appellation its name are Rousset’s two parcels within the lieu-dit, les Rivoires, positioned side-by-side, facing east. The house style of Rousset is elegance over power, and aside from the natural elegance the granite bedrock imparts and the shorter exposure to the sun due to its eastern face on a steep hill, the deft touch in the cellar accentuates the wine’s natural affinity for finesse. By comparison to Rousset’s other top red, the Crozes-Hermitage “Les Picaudières,” this wine is more immediately upfront and continues a slow evolution without straying too far. Les Picaudières is somehow the opposite, within the context of only these two wines. It’s a journey that starts slow by comparison but builds layer upon layer of deep palate textures and intense mineral characteristics.

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 entirely in small French oak barrels with an average age of five years with up to 5-10% new wood in total, depending on the year. New wood is brought in only to replace spent barrels.

(Subjective and based on young wines)

General Impressions:

Elegant, Upfront, Complex, Clean, Aromatic, Earthy, Mineral, Salty, Meaty

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:

Granite bedrock with sandy granite topsoil derived from the bedrock.

Farming:

SustainableOrganic CertifiedBiodynamic CertifiedUncertified Naturalist

Irrigation:

ForbiddenNeverSometimes

Vine Age:

Average of 50 years (2019); 6500 vines per hectare

Aspect:

East

Slope:

Extremely Steep
(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

Rousset’s single hectare parcel of Saint-Joseph is located in Tournon, one of the appellation’s original six communes prior to a series of expansions. Around the corner from the original hill that gave the appellation its name are Rousset’s two parcels within the lieu-dit, les Rivoires, positioned side-by-side and facing directly east. Rousset’s style focuses on elegance over power, which may be a function of their vineyards on less solar-powered locations (in this case that direct east face loses all the later afternoon burning sun) and the predominance of granite bedrock and topsoil in the collection of vineyards, as much as Stéphane’s deft touch. Compared to Rousset’s other top red, the slow-burning Crozes-Hermitage “Les Picaudières,” this Saint-Joseph is more immediately upfront and continues a slow evolution without straying too far from its original position, which makes it all too easy to drink it quickly. Given its impressiveness and immediacy, this wine may be better suited for a group, whereas Les Picaudières is more for two people who have a lot of curiosity, patience and time. -TV

Google 3-D Image of Saint-Joseph “Les Rivoires”: Planted on a steep, east facing granite hill, this area of Saint-Joseph is part of the original zone of Saint-Joseph.