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Smoke & Spice: Old School Syrah from Pierre Jean Villa

Smoke & Spice: Old School Syrah from Pierre Jean Villa

“It’s a hell of a value” -Josh Raynolds, Vinous

So what’s with all the crazy, confusing laws around wine regions in France? The AOC system set out to codify and promote the vast diversity of French wine styles and regions a century ago, and in large part it was hugely successful. But like any giant bureaucracy some strange things fall through the cracks.

Today’s wine is “exhibit A” in AOC silliness. The bulk of the fruit for Pierre Jean Villa’s IGP “Gamine” comes from two parcels of old, selection massale and serine clone Syrah vines that until 2018 were classified as Saint-Joseph. But new laws have restricted the total surface area of the AOC, so now they’re IGP Collines Rhodaniennes. The good news is that the quality of wine for the price is now a gift to lovers of old school, Northern Rhone wine.

Pierre farms 14 hectares of vines in and around Cote-Rotie, but unlike many of his neighbors he has not become a familiar name on global restaurant lists. His roots are humble: he studied winemaking in Burgundy before returning to his home region of the Rhone Valley where he began to slowly acquire some land (he has no family land inheritance). 

For the first few years he did everything himself, farming, winemaking, everything. But in 2013 he brought on an assistant so that he could begin converting his parcels to organic farming. They are now a 3 person team, so not exactly Guigal scale yet. 

They make a full range of wines including some excellent Cote-Rotie, but today we are smitten with the IGP “Gamine”. As mentioned this was for years an AOC Saint-Joseph, but now it must be designated IGP so Pierre includes a bit of young vine fruit from his Cote-Rotie parcels as well. 

The winemaking is decidedly old fashioned, including the use of some whole clusters and spontaneous fermentation. Aging is in barrels, most of which are now 5-10 years old, and there is minimal racking and little to no fining or filtration. Fans of deep, rich and smoky Syrah with savory minerals and supple fruit should take advantage of our special discount and grab some now!

Domaine Pierre Jean Villa, IGP Collines Rhodaniennes, 2018

“Dark purple. Expressive black and blue fruit, smoked meat, violet and licorice scents are sharpened by spicy black pepper and mineral notes. Concentrated blackberry, bitter cherry and spicecake flavors show very good depth and become livelier with aeration. Displays a suave blend of richness and finesse and finishes very long and broad, with fine-grained tannins framing the wine's lush, dark fruit. This wine is sourced from some old as well as recent Serine plantings in the Saint-Joseph appellation. It's a hell of a value. Raised in neutral barriques and demi-muids.” -Josh Raynolds, Vinous