Saint Joseph, Northern Rhône
Lyle Railsback, France+Western Importer: "My heartfelt thanks to Jean Gonon, who with his brother Pierre has turned the Saint-Joseph appellation on its head, and who is one of the most joyful vignerons I’ve met in France. Jean was kind enough to introduce me to some new names in St Joseph, who this past April I met with and tasted. Of them, one stood out as the clear winner, and whose work we are thrilled to introduce in America: Jean-François Jacouton.
As a young boy, Jean-François worked alongside his grandfather, in their family parcels in the Saint Joseph lieu-dit Sainte Epine (just above Raymond Trollat's legendary old vines which now go into Gonon’s Vieilles Vignes bottling) in the village of Saint-Jean-de-Muzols. Jean-François fully took over the family vineyards in 2003, while also working in Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage, and Savoie, and then began Domaine-bottling in 2010. His Saint Joseph holdings include older vines (in lieux-dits Les Goutelles, Verset Est Paradis, and Tinal) that produce a stunningly dense Saint Joseph Rouge he labels Pierres d'Isserand. Farming lutte raisonnée with horses and hand plowing, Jean-François is a true vigneron, spending almost all of his time in the vines. He is also reconstructing some of the old stone terraces that went to forests after phylloxera, similar to what Thierry Allemand is doing in the Chaillot terraces of Cornas.
Jacouton also still farms apricots, cherries, and peaches (which has been the history in this region with Verset, Chave, and others) so beneficially his wine cellar is an old fruit warehouse on the granite plateau above the vines. The temperature of this cellar can be dropped to zero degrees Celcius, allowing him to work with lower levels of SO2 while maintaining cleanliness and precision. His vinification and aging is in cement, amphora, demi-muids, and larger foudres, and done parcel by parcel using only 15-25% new wood so the whites are sexy and polished but still show restraint (a tiny production of Condrieu being in the earlier-harvested school of raciness and minerality), the reds are classic and old-school but also clean and precise, the older vines having more density, chewiness (also with greater inclusion of whole bunches) and ageability. His entry-level IGP cuvées come from lieux-dits above Vion (the red at 120m-390 meters and whites up to 428 meters of elevation) and might be the best value wines I have tasted from the region."
IGP Collines Rhodaniennes Blanc "Cuvée Granit"
Saint Peray Blanc
St Joseph Blanc "Souvenir d'André"
IGP Ardeche Rouge "Cuvée A Deux Pas"
St Joseph Rouge "Sortilège"
St Joseph Rouge "Pierre d'Isserand"