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Domaine de Gouye, Saint-Joseph “Vieilles Vignes”Northern Rhône Valley, France 2018 (750mL)

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Domaine de Gouye, Saint-Joseph “Vieilles Vignes” Northern Rhône Valley, France 2018 (750mL)

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There may still be some Rhône wine lovers out there who haven’t heard of Philippe Desbos and Domaine de Gouye, but it’s not for a lack of trying on our part: We’ve been loudly singing his praises for many years now, even going so far as to compare him to all-time-greats like Jean Gonon and Raymond Trollat. 


Looking back through many offers of Domaine de Gouye’s old-vine Syrah stunners, we rarely fail to mention Trollat, who, while retired, still looms large on the northern Rhône wine scene—and still lives just down the hill from Desbos, who kindly arranged a visit with Trollat for us the last time we visited. For my money, Domaine de Gouye is one of the most exciting estates in the entire northern Rhône, producing wines that compare more than favorably to greats from Hermitage, which is almost directly across the river and visible from Desbos’ driveway. Whether it’s treading grapes by foot or using a 19th-century vertical press, Philippe is the ultimate in “old school” and his wines are both pure and incredibly evocative: focused, mineral, perfumed, and loaded with energy. This Saint-Joseph “Vieilles Vignes,” sourced from high-elevation vineyards in the historic heart of the appellation, is a true “investment-grade” red that still carries a much-lower price tag than that moniker would imply. You can drink it now or lay it down, but if you love Northern Rhône Syrah, you need to get this into your home, period. 




Philippe Desbos is the most genuine of genuine articles. Probably the most modern equipment he has are the mechanical winches he uses for plowing some of his steepest parcels, which sit high above the Rhône in the renowned village of Saint-Jean-de-Muzols—a town made famous by Trollat. Those of you who follow Rhône wine closely may know that Trollat (who has turned over the farming of his prized vineyards to Gonon) is considered royalty in this region. When we visited a few years ago, we asked Desbos about him. Philippe pointed downhill to a vineyard crowned by a single tree—That’s him right there, he indicated, and not long thereafter we were in Trollat’s kitchen, where he and his wife treated us to a few glasses of wine and an unforgettable moment. 


What we learned, and have confirmed many times since, is that Saint-Jean-de-Muzols is a special place. It’s one of a handful of spots that elevate the supposedly “lesser” Saint-Joseph appellation to a level on par with Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage. For one thing, all Saint-Joseph is not created equal: The appellation was extended to nearly 40 miles in length in 1969, causing total vineyard acreage to jump from 240 to 2,900 overnight. The variability of the region’s vineyards is significant. But, as Eric Asimov noted in the New York Times, Saint-Jean-de-Muzols is one of the ‘original’ villages of the Saint-Joseph AOC, along with a handful of others clustered on the west side of the Rhône opposite Tain l’Hermitage. This is prime territory for the best expressions of Syrah, thanks to high elevations and soils that are largely granitic with patches of limestone—far superior to the clayey soils found at the base of the hills. 


Desbos’ Saint-Joseph comes from a south-facing, seven-acre plot of 50-year-old vines at about 1,000 feet elevation. With the help of a plow horse (and those winches), they till the vineyard rows and follow strict sustainable practices until harvesting by hand. After grapes are hand-harvested, sorted, and foot-trod, they’re transferred ancient wood and block press. Indigenous yeasts trigger a whole-cluster fermentation and then the wine is rested in old, neutral French barrels for 16 months. It is bottled unfined and unfiltered, and the result is reliably stunning, especially at this price.


This 2018 is a deep, opaque ruby in the glass, with hints of magenta at the rim. It is densely packed with aroma and flavor, from black raspberry, boysenberry, red and black cherry, and licorice to wild herbs, warm spices, roasted meat, cracked pepper, coffee grounds, and leather. It is medium-plus in body, moving towards full, with loads of freshness keeping it on the bright side, and while there’s structure for 10-15 years of aging, it drinks beautifully right now, too. Decant it 30-60 minutes before serving in large Bordeaux stems at 60-65 degrees. It is rich, dark, meaty, and therefore requiring the same of any dish you pair with it. As I write this, we’re just a few days removed from St. Patrick’s Day, which inspired the choice of the attached lamb stew recipe, flavored with Guinness beer. It should work wonders with Desbos’ latest Syrah triumph. Cheers!






Domaine de Gouye, Saint-Joseph “Vieilles Vignes” Northern Rhône Valley, France 2018 - SommSelect

  • CountryFrance
  • RegionNorthern Rhône Valley
  • Sub-RegionSaint-Joseph
  • SoilDecomposed Granite
  • FarmingOrganic
  • BlendSyrah
  • Alcohol14.1%
  • OakNeutral French Barrels

  • CountryFrance
  • RegionNorthern Rhône Valley
  • Sub-RegionSaint-Joseph
  • SoilDecomposed Granite
  • FarmingOrganic
  • BlendSyrah
  • Alcohol14.1%
  • OakNeutral French Barrels
  • Temp.Serve at 60° F
  • GlasswareBordeaux Stem
  • DrinkingNow-2036
  • Decanting30-60 Minutes
  • PairingGuinness Lamb Stew w/ Vegetables