Calling all Northern Rhone enthusiasts, stylistically speaking, what do you think the differences and similarities between these two regions are?
What are some of your favorite producers within them?
From my experience there are far more differences within the appellations than between them. Parts of each AOP are on steep hillside vineyards and large parts are on flatter lesser quality plots. You will commonly see both in box wine format in France at very low prices, but both are also capable of outstanding wines—if they are from the right locations and in the right hands.
Benchmarks for me in St Joseph are Chave, Faury, Cuilleron and Gonon; for Croze try Guigal or Graillot.
Graillot is my favorite "value" Northern Rhone, and it actually comes from the alluvial flat lands... i think the guiraude bottling does too.
Those others are my favorites as well, even though Gonon is such a PITA to find at a decent price these days.
I would add André Perret, Domaine Monier, and Domaine Perreol to the list of St Joseph producers.
These have been on my list of wines to try from St. Joseph (especially monier). I just received a 2006 perret st. joseph, and am looking forward to trying it.
I second Monier
I definitely give credence to what Geoff is saying, but I would need to do a little research to see if correlation does in fact lead to causation, i.e. if it's more of a wine-making and vintage thing here in some instances, but I do think you can break the wines produced in these two appellations down in to two major stylistic camps.
First, you have your black fruited, rich, juicy producers (a la Cornas) - Gonon, David Raynaud, Graillot, Voge, would all fall into to this camp for me in most vintages versus the more red-fruited, floral/quasi-Burgundian producers (a la Cote Rotie) - Faury, Souillard, and Vincent Paris' wines are generally more this direction for me. I will say, in general, most St. Jo producers trend towards the more Cote Rotie-end of the style spectrum, and most Croze producers trend towards the more Cornas-y end of the spectrum, but again, take that generalization with a grain of salt.
Most of the critical literature (especially Jonathan Livingstone-Learmonth, who's probably the greatest living english-language authority on the Northern Rhone) does say that the highest quality producers have vineyards located on the backside of the hill of hermitage in Croze, and in St. Joseph, most of the quality producers work in the southern-most section of the appellation around Mauves.
I don't understand what you mean by correlation and causation in this instance. Are you saying a variety of site geography doesn't necessarily cause a variety in wine quality?
Correct. There are isolated factors that we can't establish causality with...or at least I can't without more in depth research. We can't isolate it from wine making, vintage variation, etc. etc. I also don't mean "variety" in a better or worse way, but just in the way of differences between wines.
I can say that these are the two major styles that I find in both appellations, and my general experience of drinking either appellation, but I certainly don't have enough data to posit a hard theory, or something well-grounded in my knowledge of these domains or vineyards.
This is becoming an interesting conversation. Morgan's argument has weight; style differences can exist due to vintage and producer style. However, what Geoff is saying here is much more important when trying to understand the full landscape of these two appellations.
There is more and more work being done in these regions to further understand the varied expressions among the different sites. It is most important to remember that St. Joseph's original, non-continuous boundaries focused only on the slopes that are now generally considered to be the highest quality sites. And as Morgan has identified styles that lean more Cornas or more Cote Rotie, it would be interesting to see if there is a correlation between the styles and the sites that sit within the Condrieu appellation(as they overlap) and those that are opposite the hill of Hermitage. For me, I find that Perret drinks like Cote Rotie-he's in the north and has plots within the Condrieu area. I think Chave and Gonon drink like Hermitage-they are in the south across from said hill.
Conversely, there is a lot less of this going on in Crozes-Hermitage. There are some great wines and producers, but they are few. Crozes is also much smaller, and for me really has only two distinct places. The eastern side of the Hermitage hill and the low lying valley that Geoff mentions. I find that Crozes is either really good and compelling, or not. For St. Joseph, there are great wines made in a variety of styles.
Lastly, almost all of the producers listed in this discussion make wines in other, more premier appellations. The only producers listed that are exclusive to St. Joe or Crozes are Gonon and Graillot. For me this means that producers are informed by the other wines that they make. Voge & Paris in Cornas and Faury in Cote Rotie for example.
I think we may need to organize an annual communal tasting of St. Joseph. Reboule 2018 Dustin Wilson ??
What Jon said.
Thanks, all, for the thoughtful responses. I guess those two appellations have always been blind spots for me, despite my love of Rhone wines going back decades. It may have been the byproduct of the fact that, when I first started drinking wine, you could get 5-8 year old Cote Rotie on the shelf for $30 or less, Chave Hermitage still cost something reasonable, Clape Cornas was like $20, and Cotes du Rhones were basically free. (I recall Trader Joes had an 88 CDR for $2 that was super delicious). I always thought St. Joseph was just tart and thin compared to the Cote Rotie and Crozes was just a bland, chunky imitation of Hermitage. And, given the good stuff wasn't out of reach and the cheap stuff was so cheap, I didn't see much reason to buy those.
My head was rather turned recently by bottles of Yann Chave Crozes, and JL Chave's Silene Crozes and St. Joseph Offerus. Mind you, they were all 2015s. But they were all delicious and expressive, so I figured I'd dig in a bit.
Thanks for the shovels.
Graillot makes Hermitage and st. Joseph too.
Jon, Can you expand on this comment. Crozes is also much smaller, and for me really has only two distinct places.
Are you saying Crozes is much smaller in quality or planted area.I keep track of planted areas in the DOP's of the Rhone for my Diploma level 4 section 3 class. My notes indicate there are over 1400ha planted In Crozes and around 1100ha in St Joseph.
Crozes has more land under vine, but the overall area of the region is larger, no? Under vine or not, that would lead one to believe there is a greater diversity of terroir in St. Joe.
So, a follow up question. Has St. Joseph gotten better or are the good ones simply making it to market now? And, if it's the former, could this be a phenomenon of climate change?
After all, when I was visiting Chateau Unang in Ventoux, I asked the proprietor why the wines of that appellation have seemed to leap-frog other lower-tiered Rhones in terms of both price and quality. After all, it wasn't long ago when you'd taste someone's line-up and the Ventoux would always be the least expensive and lightest of the batch. Now it's not the case.
He said that, for so long, it was so cool that they could barely get the grapes ripe, now it's not the case and, while other spots may be getting too warm, Ventoux is now in a sweet spot with respect to that.
Could the same be happening in St. Joseph? At least the part about it being easier to ripen grapes there. Could it be that it's not as important as it used to, to be on a "roasted hillside" as it once was?