Most wines taste the way they appear. Light-colored wines tend to have light body, and dark, opaque wines are big and mouth filling. Our favorite exception to the rule is Northern Rhône Syrah: inky black wine with intense flavor but astonishing finesse.
The appellation Saint-Joseph occupies most of the region between Côte Rôtie to the north and Hermitage to the south. Saint-Joseph produces dense, dark syrah like its famous neighbors, but with a touch less extraction and an earlier drinking window. And while some Côte Rôtie and Hermitage can exceed $250/bottle, there’s value to be found in Saint Joseph.
Denis Basset is a young winemaker based in Crozes-Hermitage, recently cited by Decanter and the Guide Hachette in the dynamic new generation of Crozes-Hermitage winemakers. His plot in Saint-Joseph covers less than an acre, and bears the name Abimes de l’Enfer (the “Abyss of Hell”) for its vertiginous slope.
Basset calls it his garden: a minuscule plot producing only 200 cases per year. It’s always one of our favorite wines from him, but in the near-perfect 2015 vintage it’s nothing short of extraordinary. The nose shows spices, violets and intense black pepper; the mouth shows blackberry jam with notes of roasted meat, licorice, and toast. The flavors are intense and distilled, a wine of remarkable complexity packaged into a sleek, sophisticated core. At only 13% alcohol it’s mouthfilling and chewy, but without an ounce of heaviness.
Visitors to the Newton Depot last weekend loved this wine on its own, but it’s unquestionably best with food. Serve this alongside a roasted spring lamb with rosemary and mint, or something smoky from the grill.
Saint Clair St-Joseph 2015
Ansonia Retail: $38
6+ bottle price : $32/bot
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