By Florian Rossignol, 3 Nov 2021
As the summer comes to an end, the temperature is cooling down, now is the time to open some richer wines like those from the Rhône Valley. I might have a serious relationship with Pinot Noir, but I am also a big fan of Syrah! At The Fine Wine Experience, we like craftsmen! Good news, Jean-Baptiste Souillard is one of them. They’re located in Andance. You’ve probably never heard of it, it’s fine, neither had I before driving there to taste the wines.
Like most families in the region, the Souillards were farmers long before being winemakers. The great grandfather bought a farm in 1900 on the right bank of the Rhône River that Jean-Baptiste has been slowly turning into a winemaking facility. Jean-Baptiste’s father was the director of the major wine cooperative in Northen Rhône. Born in 1982 Jean-Baptiste always knew he would make wine. Trained at Château Latour and at Domaine des Épeneaux (Comte Armand) under Benjamin Leroux’s supervision, he also wanted to have winemaking experience in the new world, and worked in both New-Zealand and Australia to sharpen his skills. In addition to his experience in the field, Jean-Baptiste has a DNO (National Enology Diploma) - he knows his stuff, and is a fascinating character.
Having worked in Burgundy, and loving the region, he felt frustrated to see so many great terroirs from Northern Rhône being blended. From there, he decided to make his own wines by sourcing grapes from single plot only. 2014 is his first vintage. Most of his wines come from purchased fruit although he owns about 2 hectares of vines. The grapes come from partners he has known for long time or from friends – they work in the very best way to provide fabulous fruit. All wines bear the plots’ names, like in Burgundy. The vineyards are mostly located at the top of the hill (with granite soils), which are the rarest in the appellations.
Rhône wines can sometimes be too jammy or heavy, the opposite of what Jean Baptiste is aiming for. He wants finesse and freshness. Whole bunch is preferred here, delicate aromas of floral notes are widely present in his wines.
Stainless steel tanks are used during the vinification process, and pressing is done in small vertical press. His cuvées are tiny, just a few barrels of each cru only. He racks them few times to polish the tannins and give them more brightness. 24 months barrel ageing before bottling, of course, Jean-Baptiste will decide what’s best for each cuvée. Only older barrels are used at this address. He bottles them unfined and unfiltered.
Here are a few notes from my tasting last November (already!):
Croze-Hermitage Tenay is fresh, with a lovely acidity, on the palate, the wine is elegant yet structured, bloody and deep. This plot is located on granite and galets roulé (gravel), hence, freshness and volume. Very steep plot gobelet pruned with wooden stakes.
Saint Joseph Chateau Morel reveals a nose of perfumed violets and dried flowers. Delicate fruits, fabulous wine. Planted about 40 years ago, this cuvée has a good amount of whole bunch.
Cornas Les Côtes is denser showing both red and black fruits, perfect acidity that makes a great length. This vineyard is planted on granite soils, mid-slope, owned by a gentleman that farms this piece of land like his garden, in fact, the plot is located behind this house. Meticulous work and harmonious biodiversity.
Cornas Saint Pierre is a long runner! Bigger and slightly riper fruits, this wine is a beast, Sichuan pepper as well as griottes cherries gives a great complexity to the wine. It needs time. Located among the highest vineyards of the appellation, it’s a cooler area that makes fantastic wines. I tasted a 2014 Cornas Saint Pierre after the 2019, it blew my mind away! So elegant yet true to its terroir (that I love), peony and violet were revealed on the nose, the palate was spicy, Sichuan pepper and floral notes made me fall in love with it. It’s worth buying the 2019s now and cellar them for few years!
Decanting for 2 hours will definitely help these wines to shine.