Northern Rhône Reds
by Chris Santini
You may not hear the words “crushable” and “Syrah” used together that often, but here they are. Young vines, sulfur-free vinification, short élevage in stainless-steel tank, alcohol level kept in check—all the elements seem to have aligned to make the perfect juicy, black-fruited, violet-packed, fun, and crisp Syrah.
Just two generations ago, the Faury family was still selling off nearly their entire wine production, by the barrel, to watering holes around Saint-Étienne that served the region’s hardscrabble coal miners. As with coal mines everywhere, the work was tough and dangerous, so it’s nice to think that at least in this part of the world, after a day in the mines, the workers could guzzle some peppery, jovial Saint Joseph—from Faury, no less! I would have done the same. At the time, neither the Faury family nor the miners probably imagined that their Saint Joseph would someday be sought after by the world’s greatest restaurants, allocated to the last bottle, and looked at as a reference point for greatness.
While Louis Barruol has long been one of the most acclaimed producers in the southern Rhône, it’s a wonder that he hasn’t yet achieved the same recognition for his grandiose work in the northern Rhône as well. Armed with encyclopedic knowledge of Côte Rôtie terroirs, and with an approach inspired by the greats of lore (think Marius Gentaz and Robert Jasmin, for example), Barruol consistently comes up with incredibly complex, yet delicate, old-school Syrah worthy of the Côte’s pantheon. Perhaps it would be better for you and me if it stayed under the radar! It is our privilege to bring in a pure cuvée sourced exclusively from the Fongeant lieu-dit, which sits right on the border of the Côte Blonde and Côte Brune, and is renowned for sharing the best of both: tannins and structure from the Brune side, with silky, floral elegance provided by the Blonde.