Very few nowadays associate Syrah with elegance and finesse, the result of traditional wines from growers such as Maurice Gentaz (Côte-Rôtie), Raymond Trollat (St-Joseph), Marcel Juge (Cornas) being eclipsed in the market by slicker, better-marketed competitors. Syrah does have a feminine, beguiling side, when the aromatics tend towards lilacs and crushed raspberries, and the wine relies on a combination of acidity and tannin, rather than just the latter, for structure. It requires extraordinary terroir (granite beneath, steep slopes), backbreaking work (no chemicals, stake training, hand harvesting) and uncommon intuition to fashion such a wine.
We’re therefore extremely fortunate and delighted that Jean and Pierre Gonon in the sadly underestimated appellation of St-Joseph are doing just that. They have some of Trollat’s land, of course (Jean is extremely charming), but the core of their holdings are in Tournon (darker, more tannic) and Mauves (always a hint of lilac, with fresh acidity). The lots are picked and fermented separately, usually because they ripen at different times, and each cask is terrific; tasted in a sitting, it’s an unforgettable lesson in terroir. Blended together, the wine becomes incredible – polished, sleek yet completely authentic.
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