Friday, March 17, 2017

Unique Northern Rhone Gamay from Hervé Souhaut

Herve Souhaut (center), his vineyards in St. Joseph, and his cellars. Credit: Jenny & Francois Selections
The best Gamay wines in the world come from the heralded Cru-designated villages of France’s Beaujolais region. The best Syrah wines in the world come from the Northern Rhone Valley. What happens when you combine the two? Hervé Souhaut’s “La Souteronne”, that’s what.

This fascinating wine is made from 100% Gamay planted in schist soils across from the world-renown hill of Hermitage (in St. Joseph). The end result is a wine that mixes what I love about Beaujolais and the Northern Rhone Valley into a delightful package.

These Gamay vines are 60- to 80-years-old, and natural wine guru Hervén Souhaut produces some 3,000 bottles a year under his Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet, which he created in 1993. These wines come with a generic Vin de Pays appellation because Gamay is not a recognized grape variety in the Rhone Valley. But don’t let that fool you — these are beauties.
As Souhaut’s importer puts it, this wine evokes, “something very familiar and Beaujolais-like, while cloaked under the influence of the Northern Rhone, suggesting the more dark and bacon-y tendencies of Syrah from this area.” I completely agree. For lovers of Cru Beaujolais and Northern Rhone Syrah, this is a freakishly delicious marriage of awesomeness.

I recently tasted three vintages of this wine, and loved each one of them. I’m interested in tasting older vintages, too, if I can track them down, because these wines seem to do fascinating things with cellar time.

I picked these up for about $20-$25 a pop, which is definitely worth it. If you can find them, don’t hesitate, because there aren’t many bottles to go around.

2015 Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet (Hervé Souhaut) La Souteronne - France, Rhône, Ardèche, Vin de Pays de l'Ardèche
Bright ruby color. So juicy on the nose but the fruit's a bit darker than the 14, still those classic meat, smoke and herb notes. Serious tannic grip on the palate, takes a bit to open up, but it's still fresh with acidity and full of juicy plum fruit. Lots of resin, smoke, leather jacket, charcoal, iron. Structured well for the cellar. (91 points)

2014 Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet (Hervé Souhaut) La Souteronne - France, Rhône, Ardèche, Vin de Pays de l'Ardèche
A bit brighter and less wild than the 2012. Smells like mushroom, herbs, spice drawer, chorizo, on top of tangy black cherries and strawberries. Dusty, tangy, crisp, this is such a pleasant and refreshing wine but it's packed with cool flavors. Tart cherries and raspberries topped with black pepper, grilled herbs, bloody steak, wet soil. Another fascinating, funky example of this unique Gamay. (90 points)

2012 Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet (Hervé Souhaut) La Souteronne - France, Rhône, Ardèche, Vin de Pays de l'Ardèche
Love this wine for its wacky wildness. Light ruby/cloudy color. Smells of mushroom, forest fire, pepper, herbal tea, wild game bird, on top of strawberries and raspberries. Medium-bodied, some dusty grip to the tannins, fresh acidity. Sour cherries and raspberries are loaded with peppered steak, charcoal fire, fallen leaves, wet/mossy soil, herbs and black tea. Opens up wonderfully to show more floral tones. On day 2, this was straight up braised lamb juice. Funky, weird, but I find it delicious. If you purchased this, you know what you're getting into. If you're pouring— for friends, include a disclaimer… or don't and watch their facial reactions — should be fun. (90 points)

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