Today we may (quite rightly) look at Saint Joseph as a rare and fine delicacy. Not long ago, however, most vineyards were sadly in disrepair, the glory of past centuries forgotten, with vines abandoned for fruit trees which sold for much more than the local wine. In fact, during the 1950s most Saint Joseph never saw the inside of a bottle, as full barrels tended to end up in the watering holes that surrounded the local mines. The Faury family was among the first to return to estate bottling and focus on the full potential of this incredible, one-of-a-kind terroir. These days, with the appellation’s glory reclaimed, each bottle of Faury carries the signature of pepper, spice, and fresh, bright black fruit.
To get a snapshot of Syrah from the northern Rhône, it’s well worth tasting this Crozes side by side with Faury’s Saint Joseph. Faury, on the northernmost tip of the region, has a climate heavily influenced from the cooler north, while Crozes is a good hour’s drive south, on the opposite bank of the river, where you can really start to feel the warmth of southern France. Plus, Barruol says the 2018 is the best vintage he’s seen in Crozes since he began here more than a decade ago. It’s ripe and savory, without losing any of its drinkability or pleasure factor.
Returning home from a particularly brutal and bloody crusade (even by medieval standards)—over a minor religious squabble and against his own countrymen, no less—a young knight took refuge in a chapel on the top of the hill of Hermitage, far from the village and ruckus below. In an effort to break from the past, the knight planted vines, made wine, and always offered some to religious pilgrims making their way over the hill. Word of the hermit and his wine soon spread, attracting followers who helped expand the operation, and the rest is history. The rocky Pierrelle parcel, also at the top of Hermitage, is a small, lesser-known terroir that offers a wine of great elegance and restraint.
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