2021 St Joseph Blanc, Silice, Domaine Coursodon, Rhône
About this WINE
Based in St Joseph, this small 16-hectare domaine places great emphasis on its granitic terroir, considering its wines to be both pure and compelling. This is a thread which runs through all the property’s wines. Jérôme Coursodon is the fifth generation of his family to run the estate. Ever affable, he says, “I tend to produce generous, powerful and elegant wines. Wines with a soul, made from grapes with character.”
Jérôme is St Joseph specialist: he only makes wines from this commune and is extremely knowledgeable about its terroir. His Silice Blanc and Rouge are so-named for the high silica content in the soil in those parcels. His L’Olivaie and Paradis de St Pierre lieux-dits cuvées are a masterclass in different styles of St Joseph expression.
Jérôme didn’t suffer too badly with frost in 2021 as his vines are all on the slopes and escaped most of the damage. Nonetheless, the challenging vintage conditions made him take the difficult decision not to produce his Paradis St Pierre Rouge this year, opting instead to concentrate all his efforts on making two exceptional cuvées rather than risk making three weaker ones. It’s always impressive to see a winemaker put quality above quantity in a tough year and it certainly feels like this was the right decision. Containing declassified Paradis fruit, L’Olivaie is particularly stunning in 2021.”
Sadly, Jérôme’s white wines had very low yields in 2022 due to the severe drought conditions, so we can only offer Silice Blanc from this vintage and hope to see the Paradis Blanc return next year.
Saint-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, whilst 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 Saint-Joseph's east-facing vineyards lose the sun up to two hours earlier in the crucial ripening season.
Recommended producers: Pierre Gaillard, Domaine Coursodon and Paul Jaboulet.
Marsanne is the predominant white grape variety grown in the Northern Rhône where it is used to produce white St. Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage, and Hermitage. It is a tricky grape to cultivate, being susceptible to diseases and being particularly sensitive to extreme climatic changes - if growing conditions are too cool, then it fails to ripen fully and produces thin, insipid wines, while, if too hot, the resultant wines are blowsy, overblown and out of balance.
In the Northern Rhône it tends to be blended with around 15% Rousanne and produces richly aromatic, nutty wines which age marvellously - the best examples are from Hermitage and particularly from Chapoutier. Increasingly it is being grown in the Southern Rhône and Languedoc Roussillon where it is bottled as a single varietal or blended with Roussanne, Viognier, and sometimes Chardonnay. It is also grown very successfully in Victoria in Australia where some of the world`s oldest Marsanne vines are to be found.
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Two component parts of the ’21 Silice Blanc were tasted, both made from 100% Marsanne, as is the final blend. The first had a ripe lemon and apple nose, a lovely roundness in the mouth and great freshness. The second showed red apple coming through and yet more freshness. The ’21 vintage really is a superb vintage for white wines in the Rhône. Enjoy!
Drink 2022 to 2026
Catriona Felstead MW, Senior Wine Buyer, Berry Bros. & Rudd (Mar 2022)
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