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?
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?
I think that there is more investment in the Northern Rhone as a whole, which has spread to some of the "fringe" areas like St. Joseph. Maintaining the vineyards on the steeper slopes has always been very difficult, and without a market to sell one's wine to, i would have to imagine there were very few willing to take on the work.
I would not be surprised if climate change has helped produced more consistent high quality wines, as the Northern Rhone is the most northern area that can ripen Syrah in France. However, at the same time that climate change has become a factor, the understanding of winemaking has improved substantially as well, which has also increased overall quality and cut down on under ripe, bad or flawed wines.
I am sure there are others that I am missing, but Chave and Gonon has been making wine in St. Joseph for decades, and Raymond Trollat, one of the superstars of the Northern Rhone has been making wine there for even longer.
The raw ingredients have always been there, as long as there were producers willing to make the wine.
Levi Dalton (I'll Drink to This) just had a fantastic interview with Jean Gonon of Pierre Gonon discussing St. Joseph in great detail. I highly recommend checking it out.
Remember that St. Joseph has been an important wine for centuries, not decades. The Chave estate was founded in St. Joseph in the 1400's, and was built on its success there first and not initially on the hill of Hermitage.
The terraces go back to Roman times, or earlier. However, post phylloxera, there has been little interest until the mid to late 1980s. The retired Jean Louis Grippat and Raymond Trollat are the earliest producer of significance that I am aware of. (though there could be others, and i would love to learn about them!)
The Chave family received the Mauve estate as a gift in the 1400s, but post phylloxera commercial production did not really start until the early 1990s. There are a few vines that do date back to the 1950s, but i don't believe much interest was invested in the property until the current JL Chave started to focus time there at the beginning of his career.
Gonon also existed before the 1990s (at least back to the 50s), but it was with the 1989 vintage that quality began to increase significantly (if i remember my podcast correctly).
Edit: Apologies Jonathan, rereading my earlier post, I see that I did not clarify at all that I was speaking of Saint Joseph in in terms of modern history (the last couple of generations).
No Apologies. You are correct that St. Joseph's viticultural history, along with all organized viticulture in France starts with the Romans when they invaded Gaul. Post-phylloxera production in St. Joseph had a slow start, but Chave made wine from that land for centuries before phylloxera. That is the history that I am referring to. Yes that Grippat and Trollat are the earliest post-phylloxera producers of note, but again I think we need to look at the entire history of the region to truly understand it.