On the 4th of April 2006 Herve Souhaut visited Oslo for a presentation of his wines. Herve Souhaut owns the Domaine Romaneuax destezet placed about 30 kilometers west of Tournon and just outside the region of Rhone. He has run this domaine since 1993. The vineyards are classified VdP Ardeche. In 1999 he also bought the lower part of the vineyard Sainte Epine, just north of Tournon. This vineyard lies within Rhone in the appelation of Saint Joseph. Despite this Herve Souhaut bottles the Saint Epine as a VdT. Totally he owns 6 hektars of vines and makes ca 25000 bottles a year. The vines are grown ecologically. Herve Souhaut wants to interact as little as possible with the juice. So the wines are fermented with natural yeasts only and the winemaking technics are old-fashioned; no destemming, long maceration, long fermentation, no temperature control, old barrels, no chaptalising and only as little as possible adding of sulphure before bottling (always total SO2 less than 25 mg/L).
The Sainte Epine is made from 100% syrah. In the vineyards in the Ardeche you find syrah, gamay and in 1993 Herve Souhaut planted some viognier and rousanne which he blends for a white wine.
Made from 60% viognier, 40% rousanne. 18 hl/ha. Direct pressing, fermentation in old 228 liters barrels, no filtration. 14,5% alcohol. This wine has a yellow colour, more towards green than brown. Semi-aromatic and quite viognier-like nose of sweet flowers. Full-bodied and concentrated in the mouth. Not as fat as you expect. The rousanne gives a firmer body and tighter structure. Still very young. With time in the glass, the aromatics are a bit subdued in the nose and the wine gives more minerals. Nice.
La Souteronne Gamay 2004
Soil has more granite. From 60-70 year old vines. 45 hl/ha. Long maceration semi-carbonique, no filtration. This wine had a red colour. Very fine lightly perfumed nose of rasberries, anise, earth and mineral. Quite a serious gamay. Medium body and concentration. Very fine structure with good acids and more tannins than normal for this grape. Fine balance. 12,5% alcohol. Young wine which deserves a little cellar-time, but very tempting right now. One of my favourites. Very good indeed.
Syrah from the Arceche VdP. Vines 30 years old. 30 Hl/Ha. Long maceration and no filtration. Only 11,5% alcohol. This wine had a slightly more brown colour than the gamay. The nose was more earthy with some slight notes of pepper and dark berries. Medium bodied, quite earthy and lightly complex syrah. Medium concentration and quite acidic syrah with some more tannins in the back than the gamay. Fine structure, but a little low in concentration. Fine food-wine. Nice.
Sainte Epine 2004
100% syrah from one of Saint Joseph's finest vineyards. Herve Souhaut has decided to bottle this as VdT. Therefore for the vintage you have to search for the lot-number. Vines in the Sainte Epine are more than 100 years old. The wine is vinified in the same manner as the other wines with long maceration and no filtration. All vintages of Sainte Epine had 12,0-12,5% alcohol. The colour in the 2004 is more red with purple hues. The nose more fruity than the Syrah Ardeche, but mineral, peppery and earthy. Very fine nose. In the mouth this is a concentrated and tannic wine. A very pure expression of a mineral-driven syrah. Very young and promising. No doubt, the wine of the day.
Sainte Epine 2003
Darker and more purple colour. Sweeter nose, with more dark berries. More powerful in the mouth, alittle fatter and more fruity style with lower acids, but quite a tannic end. Not at all an overripe wine, but compared to the 2004 it is lacking in structure. Only 12,0% alcohol. Herve Souhaut said this was a very difficult vintage. Especially with the fermentation. Due to low nitrogen the fermentation was very slow and difficult to complete. He added nitrogen and also added juice from crushed grapes (without the solid parts). I think this wine has come across as a rather fine example of a wine from the hot 2003-vintage. Still not on par with the 2004.
Sainte Epine 2002
Lighter colour than both 03 and 04. Still a little purple. Yes, the 02 is also very typical for the vintage. It is the elegant and less concentrated one. Not as tannic and more acidic mouthfeel. More medium bodied and drinking nicely now. I preferred this to the 03, but it is not on par with 04.
Sainte Epine 2001
From magnum. Deeper colour than 02, but less purple. The nose shows more animal-fur and earth. Young, tight and the most concentrated wine of the evening. Structured and build to last. For many this was the wine of the day. But I disagree. It did not display the same clean focus and expression as the 04. Still a very fine wine.
Sainte Epine 2000
From magnum. Colour like the 01. The nose more earthy, some animal-fur, some brett. This is also quite a rich and concentrated wine, although below the 01. Still young and a slightly more rustic styled Sainte Epine with quite a lot of tannins in the back. Still a nice wine, but more unfocused than the others. I think the conclusion may be that it took some time for Herve Souhaut to be able to capture the expression of the Sainte Epine. But with the 04 he has made what must be the standard for any Saint Joseph (whatever that is).