Red, Ready, but will keep

2012 St Joseph, Domaine Pichon

2012 St Joseph, Domaine Pichon

Red | Ready, but will keep | Domaine Pichon | Code: 23877 | 2012 | France > Rhône > Saint-Joseph | Syrah/Shiraz | Medium Bodied, Dry | 12.5 % alcohol

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The Producer

Domaine Pichon

Domaine Pichon

Christophe and Isabelle Pichon, apart from the small matter of bringing up six children, also farm 10 hectares spread over the wine appellations of Côte Rôtie, Condrieu and St Joseph.

Nearly 4 hectares of this are in Condrieu, to the South of the appellation, in the commune of Chavanay. Condrieu, with its distinctive granitic terraced vineyards, is still perceived as the source of the best Viognier wines in the world, wines of incredible richness and a texture which afford the reviewer/taster little alternative but to use vocabulary from the more sensuous and decadent end of the spectrum!

The Grape

Syrah/Shiraz

Syrah/Shiraz

A noble black grape variety grown particularly in the Northern Rhône where it produces the great red wines of Hermitage, Cote Rôtie and Cornas, and in Australia where it produces wines of startling depth and intensity. Reasonably low yields are a crucial factor for quality as is picking at optimum ripeness. Its heartland, Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, consists of 270 hectares of steeply terraced vineyards producing wines that brim with pepper, spices, tar and black treacle when young. After 5-10 years they become smooth and velvety with pronounced fruit characteristics of damsons, raspberries, blackcurrants and loganberries.

It is now grown extensively in the Southern Rhône where it is blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre to produce the great red wines of Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas amongst others. Its spiritual home in Australia is the Barossa Valley, where there are plantings dating as far back as 1860. Australian Shiraz tends to be sweeter than its Northern Rhône counterpart and the best examples are redolent of new leather, dark chocolate, liquorice, and prunes and display a blackcurrant lusciousness.

South African producers such as Eben Sadie are now producing world- class Shiraz wines that represent astonishing value for money.

The Region

Saint-Joseph

St Joseph is the second-largest appellation in the Northern Rhône with 50 growers producing wines from over 600 hectares of vineyards. Established in 1956, over 90 percent of the wine is red – made exclusively from the Syrah grape. The white wines, meanwhile, are typically a blend of Marsanne and Roussanne varieties. Its vineyards run due south on the west side below Condrieu, and are in six communes: Mauves, Tournon, St Jean-de-Muzols, Lemps, Vion and Glun.

The styles of wine in St Joseph tend to be much lighter than other red Appellations d'Origine Contrôlee and the quality can vary dramatically. The soils and climate differ, as it is a long, narrow AOC. There is no particular characteristic of the commune as some wines are produced near Côte-Rôtie, while others are near to Cornas.

The best St Josephs are still produced in the original heartland of the appellation between St Jean-de-Muzols and Mauves, where soils are predominately granitic with patches of limestone and schist. Typically, even the finest St Josephs are slightly lighter and faster-maturing than the wines of Hermitage, as St Joseph's east-facing vineyards lose the sun up to two hours earlier in the crucial ripening season.

To meet demand, some extensions of the appellation have been made on less than ideal land, producing wines of indifferent quality.

Recommended producers: Pierre GaillardJerome Coursodon, Paul Jaboulet
Best vintages: 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2000, 1999, 1996, 1990

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