Sometimes you come across a wine that wows you with its complex drinkability in its youth alongside a distinct propensity to age. The wines of Martine & Christian Rouchier show just that, lovely approachability in their youth, but underneath the primary pleasures drapes a robe of tertiary & savory complexities waiting to be unveiled.
Martine & Christian Rouchier are making some of the most exciting wines in the Northern Rhône today. They work two hectares of vines in the Ardechè that coincide with the more famed Saint-Joseph appellation. Geographically located halfway between Lyon and Montpelier, these wines show both alpine and Mediterranean influence. The duo conduct a relationship of the upmost respect in the vineyard, farming according to organic and biodynamic principals since 2010. All vineyard work is managed by hand, only assisted by horse when necessary. With little to no human intervention, the natural biological activity of the soil is undisturbed emphasizing the hands-off approach.
Tasting these wines is a lesson in terroir. Here, one can taste the nuanced subtleties differentiating their sites, ‘Luc’ & ‘Chave’, highlighting how soil and wine are intertwined. ‘Luc’ a .5 hectare vineyard of Syrah planted in 1972 on the hills above St-Jean de Muzols, with an elevation of 250 meters on a west-facing slope, consisting of clay and schists soils; it shows the delicacy and vibrancy of a young Syrah, but the structure and density that will continue to prove it’s worth with time. ‘Chave’, is a 1-hectare parcel of Syrah planted in 1958, also facing west, on granitic gneiss of volcanic origin. Here, the energy and electricity come first, developing a beautiful bouquet of violets and pepper once opened.
Both wines spend two weeks fermenting, whole cluster, in concrete tanks using ambient yeasts. Elevage takes place in neutral wood barrels for a maximum of 18 months. Both cuvées are neither fined nor filtrated and no sulfur added throughout the entirety of the vinification process, which I still find hard to believe.
Rouchier displays the complexity only a few can reach. These special bottles are very limited, at almost unicorn status, but without the price tag of such a wine. We recommend conducting a side-by-side comparison with both cuvées, just give a little decant and time before enjoying. Think of traditional Rhône dishes as pairings, like slow cooked veal and potatoes and onions gratin. Cheeses like Beaufort, Abondance, and Reblochon.
Soil: Clay & Schists for ‘Luc’, Granite Gneiss for ‘Chave’
Viticulture: Organic, biodynamic, natural