x12/1 Spot Offer: Clape, Stephan, and Souhaut
Without a doubt, some of the world’s greatest wines hail from the steep slopes of the Northern Rhone. Today, we’re spoiled with choice, as skilled winemakers craft incredible renditions of syrah throughout the region (and beyond)! We’ve selected a few of our favorite producers to highlight. Some may be known to you, others not – all are at the top of the game. And while their winemaking styles may vary from the traditional to the natural, you can’t miss with any of these epic wines!
With over 30 vintages of head-turning Cote-Rotie, how Jean-Michel Stephan manages to stay under the radar remains a mystery, except perhaps for his minuscule production numbers. His wines show an interplay of pure and powerful fruit, great complexity, and dense structures. Old vines provide tremendous depth and backbone for Coteaux de Bassenon and particularly Coteaux de Tupin, which comes from an ancient syrah varietal called serine noir. All the wines show uncommon breed and flawless renditions of their terroir, eschewing any additives, including yeast and sulfur. Fermentations are done either fully or partially carbonic, with aging in old oak, or in the case of Les Binardes, entirely in steel. SO Brune is the rarest wine of the estate, hailing from a tiny parcel in the Cote Brune, producing just 1,000 bottles a year.
In 1993, Herve Souhaut set up shop in a 16th-century farm once occupied and fortified by Romans. There in the Ardeche, just outside the Rhone Valley, he works with old vines in both regions, turning out deft and juicy renditions of the local grapes, syrah chief among them. A former chemist, Herve trained with Lapierre and Pacalet, and similarly makes his wines semi-carbonically, focusing on vivid fruit and early-ish drinking. These wines are all about depth and freshness, but still offer hedonistic pleasure, whether drunk young or old. The St. Joseph Clos des Cessieux shows a classic version of syrah, all intense purple fruit and flowers, while Sainte-Epine, from steep-sloped centenary vines (previously farmed by Ramond Trollat), shows long, dark fruit and meaty undertones. The "Syrah" bottling and La Souteronne (old-vine gamay) define Herve's mission, with light-footed and pitch-perfect single varietal wines, only heavy on deliciousness. The Ardeche Blanc, a traditional blend of viognier and roussanne, always shows surprising freshness on top of its lacy texture.
Since its inception, Domaine Auguste Clape has been a standard-bearer for the Cornas appellation, and its flagship bottling remains the benchmark for syrah worldwide. The estate’s formula consists of late-picking from old vines, whole cluster fermentation, and aging solely in foudres. The result is a classic Cornas, with flavors of roasted meat, dark fruits and spice. You can pop them young with a chill, but they absolutely shine with bottle age, deep and incandescent. The Renaissance bottling comes from a selection of younger vines in Cornas and holds its own. Similarly, the Cotes du Rhone is an incredible value, a blend of two sites of syrah near the village, while the rare St. Peray remains one of the great white wines of the Rhone.
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