Saint Joseph Rouge (the red wine of Saint Joseph) is made with Red Syrah and up to 10% of the white grapes Marsanne and Roussanne. Saint Joseph Blanc (the white Saint Joseph) is made from Marsanne and/or Roussanne). They are excellent wines with a variety of foods and we love any excuse to open a bottle with dinner.
Sam Sifton’s most recent What to Cook this Week noted that Monday, March 19 is the feast of Saint Joseph. That immediately put me in mind of the delicious wine of the same name from the Northern Rhone. What a great excuse to enjoy a Monday evening bottle of Saint Joseph!
Then I read that the feast is traditionally a Lenten one, and my first instinct was disappointment. Saint Joseph is mostly known for intense red wines that you want to drink with hearty, meaty dishes: roasted lamb, Cassoulet, that kind of thing.
White Saint Joseph
But that’s silly. First of all, Saint Joseph is also home to stunning white wines that pair perfectly with all sorts of vegetarian meals. And it turns out we have two of the very top small-grower Saint Joseph Blancs in stock right now, wines that are especially fascinating to compare side-by-side, from Monier-Perreol and Hervé Souhaut.
Souhaut has become a darling of the Natural Wine Movement™. His wines are pure and full of life and exploded on the scene as exemplars of what natural wine could be. Today they are chased almost as much as the other elites of that movement, Foillard, Lapierre, etc.
Monier-Perreol, on the other hand, has stayed somewhat under the radar, collected mostly by in-the-know wine geeks and died-in-the-wool fans of M-P’s importer, the great Kermit Lynch. It’s hard really to understand why they haven’t blown up more. They’re a small family domaine of the very old style. They farm Biodynamically, even practicing a traditional polyculture, with apricot orchards on their land. The wines are delicious and, like Souhaut’s, pure and terroir-specific (John Livingstone-Learmonth even M-P’s wines “notably pure” and ranks them as one of his rare “soil to glass transfer” producers”—one of the elites of the old-school, terroir focused producers).
These aren’t the kind of producers whose wines we expect to see stick around, so I was pretty excited to find them both in stock (for now). Particularly since they complement each other so well. You see, Saint Joseph Blanc can be made from Marsanne and/or Rousanne. There are no rules requiring any particular proportion of each grape, so some examples are a blend of the two grapes and others are 100% one or the other.
And while Monier-Perreol and Souhaut have much in common in terms of philosophy and approach, their white Saint Joseph’s are polar opposites in terms of varietal: Monier-Perreol’s is 100% Marsanne and Souhaut’s 100% Roussanne.
The differences between Marsanne and Roussanne can be a bit of a mystery, even to devoted wine geeks. So tasting these two wines is a rare and exciting chance to really dig into their identities. The received wisdom is that Marsanne brings power and richness, and Roussanne elegance and freshness.
And these wines show why that’s the received wisdom: there’s no doubt some truth to the view. But tasted side by side, these wines also show the limits of the received wisdom. Souhaut’s Roussanne has plenty of acidity and a fresh, accessible feel of mountain air. But M-P’s wine is hardly lacking for freshness, either. And while it may be the slightly richer wine in the mouth, it’s not like Souhaut made a wine without any base notes.
Both are accessible now (the M-P especially with a little air) but take on all sorts of complexity and depth with time in the cellar.
These wines will be great with any vegetarian meals you cook up, in honor of Saint Joseph or otherwise. And with spring just around the corner, not matter what the weatherman says, these are definitely wines for the times. And don’t feel like they’ll only work with vegetables and fish. They’re also great with Chicken or veal, or with a plate of cheese after the meal.
Red Saint Joseph
Even if the Feast of Saint Joseph was traditionally a Lenten one, we would be remiss to let the day pass without grabbing some St. Joseph Rouge for later in the week. There will be meat on our tables and St. Joseph makes some of the most magical and under-appreciated wines for pairing with dinners of all sorts.
We all think of Burgundy as an ideal restaurant wine, since it can work with so many dishes, from fish through steak. But Saint Joseph Rouge also has its own, broad range. There are the lighter, purer examples—almost like Syrah-based Burgundies—with very fine tannins and lovely fruit. They are delicious with white meats and even heavier fish dishes. Then there are the meaty, bloody examples that are naturals for roast lambs and game.
Ordering in BBQ? Don’t sleep on the Syrah! It cuts through sauces, complements deep rich meaty flavors, and will keep you coming back to watch how the bottle is opening up, long after you’ve had your fill of meat!
We have great examples of Saint Joseph Rouge from both ends of the spectrum, and one beauty from right in the middle.
Big and Savory Saint Joseph – Domaine Faury Saint Joseph 2015 ($29.99)
Faury’s St. Joseph is one of our favorite examples a perfectly-pitched meaty St. Joseph. It’s got the bacon fat and hints of black olive framed by the mineral notes and pure berry fruit. But it’s never clumsy or big for the sake of being big: like all the great Northern Rhones, it’s got elegance to spare.
The 2015 is a super vintage and we only have a bit of this wine left. But we’re about to get the 2016—which will be amazing, too. If you want to hear about that as soon as it lands (and get a special, Newsletter-only discount, in the bargain) sign up for our Weekly Newsletter here, or using the form below.
Light and Burgundian Saint Joseph – Jean-Baptiste Souillard Saint Joseph 2015 ($37.99)
Souillard is a young up-and-comer who trained in Burgundy (among other regions) and is imported by Burgundy legend, Becky Wasserman. He takes a decidedly Burgundian approach to his winemaking. While his Syrahs taste like Syrahs, the emphasis is definitely on the airy and straight-up delicious aspects of his terroirs and variety of choice.
Goldilocks Saint Joseph – Natacha Chave’s Domaine Aléofane Saint Joseph 2015 ($32.99)
Natacha is from a family of vignerons, but set out on her own to make the wines she wanted to make: beautiful, fresh and balanced, with succulent Burgundian fruit, but pronounced savory notes too. This is great stuff, and not yet discovered in America.
To help you celebrate Saint Joseph’s feast, we’re discounting all our Saint Josephs for the week on our web store. They’re 10% off, 15% if you buy 6 or more. But this is an online-only offer for readers of our blog: use coupon code FEAST18 to take advantage before end of day Sunday March 25th.