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While the name of the domaine honors Roch’s great-grandfather, it also brings to mind the great northern Rhône appellation Saint-Joseph. The association with fine cool-climate Syrah is not unwarranted: the grape shows a special affinity to the extreme environment of this less-traveled side of Provence, so much that Roch chose to spotlight it with a special cuvée. Thick, dense, chewy tannins frame this brawny red jam-packed with spice and savory goodness. It belongs in your cellar somewhere between the Bandols and the Hermitages.
Roch Sassi of Clos Saint-Joseph (named for his great-grandfather) is the only grower to bottle any wine eked from these incredibly rocky slopes. His wines fall under the Côtes de Provence appellation, even though the much cooler terroir here has little relation to the rest of the AOC. Villars in fact represents an isolated enclave of Côtes de Provence that enjoys a unique microclimate, the dry heat buffered by cold air currents from the surrounding mountains. These conditions allow for full ripening at remarkably low alcohol levels, maintaining lively fruit and bright acidity in the wines.
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Inspiring Thirst, page 211