Introducing Domaine Rousset!

5/1/12 -

(Rousset vineyards, Crozes-Hermitage)

At the suggestion of Jean and Pierre Gonon, as well as other trusted sources in the Rhône Valley, we made an appointment to taste with Stephane and Robert Rousset in the Crozes-Hermitage village of Erome. They have some of the best vineyards in Crozes was the story we heard, and they've always worked the soil, even plowing with a horse where possible. The family goes back eleven generations in Erome and Stephane's great uncle was the legendary Raymond Roure, from whom the Roussets purchased the "Picaudières" vineyard in Gervans. Talk of terroir in Crozes-Hermitage often turns to the difference between the granite hills of Serves, Gervans and Erome in the north of the appellation (with smaller outcroppings in Larnage and Crozes) and the deeper soils in the plains of the central and southern region. The producers in the plains "excel in the nearest the northern Rhône comes to a new-world style" while the steep granite slopes of the northern villages produce leaner, age-worthy wines "a situation nearly identical to that of Hermitage with it's southward-facing hillsides and generally granite soils."

The Roussets own one-half of "Les Picaudières," one of the best vineyards in the region, with terraces cut out of the granite and a high percentage of old vines, planted in high density, dating back to the 1930s. Next to Picaudières is "les Vedias" in Erome where the Roussets have Syrah and 60-to-80 year-old Marsanne vines, another parcel is "Mejans," a hillside in Crozes on granite with syrah vines from the 1970s. There is also a half-hectare of 60 year-old vines in St. Joseph in the lower-slope "Rivoires" vineyard in Tournon. The Rousset's winemaking is traditional, with wild-yeast fermentations, and although there is a small percentage of new oak for the Picaudières, the wines are not forced and are very expressive of their soils. "All the wines are structured, the classic red can age for 8 to 10 years, the Picaudières is a wine of genuine breed and's depth comes from the terroir and its old vineyard, thank goodness, and not from cellar extraction."

Our tasting with Stéphan was a delightful experience of discovery. The white, from very old Marsanne vines, was a unique and fascinating wine; the "basic" Crozes-Hermitage, blended from their primarily hillside granite soils, was classy and complex; the "Picaudières" was deep, complex, Hermitage-like, and remarkably balanced and structured for a 2009. The wines arrive approximately May 16th, we hope you will give them a try... Normal case discounts apply. Quotes are from Livingstone-Learmonth's definitive "Wines of the Northern Rhône" (2nd and 3rd photos: Robert and Stephane Rousset; Harvest 2011)


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