I thought I didn’t like Roussanne until I opened a bottle of white Saint-Joseph (pronounced “sahn joe-zef”) over Thanksgiving. Made with 100% Roussanne, the 2020 vintage from Domaine des Pierres-Sèches delighted my palate and changed my mind. It reminded me of the time when I thought I didn’t like Chardonnay, and then I tasted my first white Burgundy.
|2020 Domaine des Pierres-Sèches Saint-Joseph Blanc|
The same day, my neighbor surprised me with a 2012 red Saint-Joseph from Domaine de Blacieux. It was earthy, spicy, and quite vibrant for its age. As it turned out, both white and red Saint-Josephs made fine pairings for a turkey feast. It seems appropriate to give some love to this Northern Rhône Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) that has been dwarfed by its more famous siblings - Côte Rotie, Hermitage, and Cornas.
|2012 Domaine de Blacieux Saint-Joseph Rouge|
So let's talk Saint-Joseph.
It is believed that vines were grown in the Saint-Joseph region during the Roman Empire, as early as 124 BC. By the Middle Ages, the wines were known as Vin de Mauves or Mauves wines. Vin de Mauves were enjoyed by royalties, such as Emperor Charlemagne and King Louis XII. French writer Victor Hugo even mentioned the wine in his masterpiece, Les Misérables.
Fast forward to 1956, Saint-Joseph received its AOC designation. Today, it is now among over 30 appellations in the Rhône Valley. Located on the west side of the Rhône River, Saint-Joseph is the longest appellation in Northern Rhône, stretching 50 km from north to south. To its north is Condrieu, famous for its exquisite Viognier. To its south is Cornas, known for its powerful age-worthy Syrah.