2016 Côtes de Provence Rouge
If you close your eyes and imagine the reds of Provence, you may think of sunny, robust wines that, when young, can startle you with a tannic uppercut if you’re not expecting it. These are reds that can certainly offer much joy early on—depending on vintage, decanting, and how much you like to spar with a burly wine—but pay the biggest dividends a few or more years down the road.
By contrast, the reds of Clos Saint-Joseph are complete and gorgeous right out of the gate. I did not anticipate this level of finesse when our staff tasted them for the first time in Berkeley last spring. I frankly didn’t know what to expect, as there are a few features that make this domaine and wine an enigma at first glance.
To start, fourth-generation vigneron Roch Sassi is the only producer to bottle his own wine in the village of Villars-sur-Var, 30 minutes north of Nice. Most of the village’s historic, but miniscule 30 hectares of vines are farmed and harvested for the locals’ own personal consumption. Second, this slice of pre-Alps Provence is a sort of satellite, located 100 miles to the east of the rest of the Côtes de Provence appellation, with which it has very little in common: tucked in among rocky, limestone mountains that shield it from the Mediterranean heat, Villars-sur-Var enjoys a much cooler microclimate than most of its peers. Third, Roch’s style of farming—manual, biodynamic—and all-natural winemaking is the exception to the rule in an appellation that has such a global, large-scale demand. Finally, “Saint-Joseph” in the domaine’s name might be confusing if it makes you think of the appellation Saint-Joseph, in the Northern Rhône. There is beautiful Syrah in Roch Sassi’s rouge, but this grape and “Saint-Joseph” are the only overlapping points with the appellation 200 miles away—the name is, instead, for Roch’s great-grandfather Joseph.
Our second shipment from Clos Saint-Joseph arrived recently and the 2016 Côtes de Provence rouge is a princely wine. What you have is a crowd-pleaser brimming with class, inviting contemplation, but by no means requiring it. This is a red that has a little of something for all wine lovers. Do you go crazy for the savory aspect of Syrahs from the Northern Rhône? Enjoy a gentle wildness that Grenache and Mourvèdre can bring, like in the wines of Châteaneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, and Pic Saint-Loup? Do you love the bright, vivid fruit and stony tannins of mountain wines? Somehow, this red has it all, in perfect, mouth-watering, 13%-alcohol proportion.
|Blend:||50% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre, 15% Grenache, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% varied|
|Appellation:||Côtes de Provence|
|Vineyard:||5-10 years, 30-40 years, and 90 years old, 2.5 ha|
|Aging:||Aged in barriques and demi-muids for 12 months|