2022 ChevernyDomaine du Salvard
France | Loire
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by Anthony Lynch
Today I had the Clos Saint-Joseph blanc. I imagine if François Raveneau had made wine there, his blanc would have tasted like Roch’s. What a pure expression of that fabulous terroir. Filtered by the stones.
Never did I expect my father would liken a humble Provençal white to what is probably his favorite white wine of all time, Raveneau’s Chablis. But this is no ordinary Provençal white, Villars-sur-Var is no ordinary terroir, and Roch Sassi has proven, in the few years since we began working with him, his capacities as a truly extraordinary vigneron.
Our story begins in 2017, when we exited the autoroute at Nice and followed the Var River due north through a narrow canyon cut through layer upon layer of limestone. These veritable walls of rock had been folded into mesmerizing patterns, attesting to millions of years of geological activity as tectonic plates crunched together and birthed the mighty Alps. After thirty minutes or so, an opening in the valley revealed stony riverbanks covered in vineyard rows, signaling our arrival in Villars.
Surrounded by towering peaks, this isolated medieval village is home to a modest thirty hectares of vines, of which five belong to Roch. Besides being made from the same grape varieties, his wines share little in common with anything else you’ll encounter from the vast Côtes de Provence AOC. First, the Alps exercise a decisive influence on soil and climate, manifested by the abundance of limestone scree and cold air currents tempering the Mediterranean warmth. Second, his methods reflect a winemaking philosophy diametrically opposed to the commercial direction much of Provence has been guilty of taking in recent times.
The very first whiff of his graceful, vibrant rosé illustrated this in mouthwatering fashion. A rosé defined by terroir, and not by technique?! With similar precision and that filtered-through-stones finish, Roch’s blanc echoes what we loved about the rosé, while the purity and restraint of his old-vine rouge personify the generosity of Provence viewed through an Alpine lens. Lastly, with its dense wild fruit and suave floral nuances, the Syrah stands tall among the great cool-climate expressions of the grape. Don’t sleep on Clos Saint-Joseph—it’s a side of Provence rarely seen.
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