Medium-light ruby with wide pink edges. Barnyard and brett and beauty arise out of the glass, a thick funk not for the weak-of-spirit or anyone belonging to a wine-club anywhere in Paso or most of Napa Valley floor. Ripe fruit oozes up in eye-watering waves of compost and manure, graphite with wispy wet-leaf smoke punctuating.
I discovered this wine about 20 years ago in Keisuke Matsushima’s little tiny alcove of a restaurant–two tables, probably ten tops–in Nice around the corner from his current crazy-good new modern place. He only had a half-dozen wines on the list and this “St. Joseph” intrigued me. Ever since the first sniff, I have had these conversations with wine-people about the “crazy little St. Joseph from Provence”. Invariably, they insist there is no St Joseph besides Rhone, and I usually give up on the conversation with something like, “Well ok fine, someday you’ll find it and when you do, buy it.” After relishing it at Keisuke, I went to the local cave in Nice the next day and bought a couple bottles to bring home in my suitcase. The last of them went away probably almost a decade ago.
In the mouth, clean, ridiculous fruit tinged in garden hose and lemon crayon. The funk from the nose never really leaves, it ramps itself up into a mouthfeel and coats all pores, providing a subtle filter for the screaming acid and perfect plum and nectarine to ooze through. High-note tannins match the pink band staring at you at full-tilt, bringing all your limestone dreams alive in fruit and texture while maraschino cherry trickles down your throat.
I don’t know what’s in this wine and don’t care. When you love Cotes de Provence rouge like I do, you give up worrying about varieties. The label has no English and says merely Les raisins issus de cépages traditionnels tels que Syrah, Grenache et Mourvedre pour les rouges et les rosés, et Ugni-blanc, Clairette, Rolle et Sémillon pour les blancs, sont produits par un vignoble de 4 hectares, cultivés 60 ans. So you get the idea.
If I had to list ten life-changing wines–and I get asked this question often–THIS would be one of them.
2015 Clos Saint Joseph Villars-sur-Var Cotes de Provence France 13.0