Localization: Rhone Valley, France
Tasting Notes: Les Cessieux is a study of Hervé’s use of finesse in what would traditionally have made a powerful and brooding wine. The classic elements of Northern Rhone Syrah, dark red fruits and savory elements of bacon fat are present, but they are subtle in comparison with the floral aromas jumping out of the glass. Les Cessieux is Hervé’s most exuberant–one might say hedonistic–wines.
Notes: A new cuvée from vines that Beatrice’s grandfather owns (along with all the other vines). But around 25 years ago, before he knew Hervé wanted to make wines, he rented that parcel out with a 25-year lease. The vines were planted back then from clonal selection (as opposed to massale (non-clone) for the rest of the vines). These vines weren’t worked organically until Hervé got the vines back in 2013. Herve says the soil in St Joseph is very rocky with very little soft soil that retains chemicals, so he thinks the chemicals have now washed out of the parcel.
The Domain: Hervé Souhaut created Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet in 1993. Hervé works 5-hectares of old and ancient vines—between 50 to 100 years old. He is very fortunate to own two vineyards in the Rhône Valley just opposite the storied hills of Hermitage in Saint Joseph. This region is widely recognized as being one of the finest areas for wine production on the planet; thanks in part to its elevation, ancient vineyard sites, and southeastern and southern exposures. The domaine is located further into the hills of the Northern Ardeche in the tiny town of Arlebosc, about a 30-minute drive, winding through the hills from St Joseph. The winery is underneath the 16th century “les romaneaux” fortified farm and sits in the middle of the vines that make up the Souteronne, Syrah, and white cuvées.
Hervé works entirely on whole grape bunches and semi-carbonic maceration. His philosophy is to extract a delicate balance of tannins from the grapes, to make a wine with subtlety and finesse. This stands in contrast to many of the storied wines of the Northern Rhone that are made with much more extraction of tannin, where they are designed to be practically undrinkable in their youth, as time is needed for them to soften and open up. Hervé prefers to make a wine that is drinkable right away, but we must say his wines have such a fantastic level of purity and acidity, that the older bottles we have tasted have incredible potential to evolve into what we find to be one of the most spectacular natural wines in existence.
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We would consider all wine to be "Natural". The term "Natural Wine" has the connotation of lacking a touch with nature. The winegrowers we champion are those who are farmers first. They seek to capture the uniqueness of the site (terroir) in the purest way possible. The product is as pure as possible and without wine-making flaws (brettanomyces, mercaptans, volatile acidity, etc.
Raw, in this case, we define as realistic and not manipulated. The winemakers use the least amount of intervention as possible. Wine should be made in the vineyard, not the cellar. The winemaker's job is to get the wine into the bottle in the purest form possible. There are additives that go into making wine, some are essential and some are not. Wines in this category do not have extra additives. They are free of added sulfur, or have the most minimal amounts possible in order to provide shelf stability for the consumer to experience the wine as the winemaker intended it to be.