2020 Domaine Xavier Gérard, Saint-Joseph Rouge, Le Blanchard, Northern Rhone, France.
The beautifully elegant and mineral infused Xavier Gérard Saint-Joseph Le Blanchard is a pure and perfumed Syrah that seduces the senses and has a heavenly lightness that captures this vintage of Northern Rhone wines to perfection, this is a year for those looking for delicacy and nuance rather than dense concentration. Xavier Gerard, who I met and tasted with when he was on an American tour, is a talented young winemaker that is making an impression in this classic Northern Rhone region, best known for his Côte-Rôtie and gorgeous Condrieu bottlings, who has in the last five vintages really refined his own style using organic farming and traditional methods in the cellar. He makes wines that sing with perfume and have graceful textures, as displayed here exquisitely. Xavier, who recently took over the family business, has dialed back whole cluster and stem inclusion in his reds and it has paid off in allowing transparency and haunting complexity, as this very, very pretty Saint-Joseph shows. This Le Blanchard comes from a granite influenced small parcel with the Saint-Joseph Appellation, not too far from Gérard’s prime Condrieu vines, it is a micro terroir that promotes aromatics, like this wine’s crushed violets, and shows off this grape’s more sexy and svelte side with a medium bodied palate of blueberry, boysenberry, damson plum and black cherry fruits, along with an unfolding background of stony shale, spicy peppercorns, bacon, anise, cedar and subtle earthiness. This almost silken 2020 should continue to evolve and fill out over the next 3 to 5 years, and while not a blockbuster, it makes for a great alternative to wildly expensive Burgundy, such is the quality here.
Xavier Gérard, as mentioned, continues his family’s old school practices in the cellar, but with a lighter touch and more precision, employing spontaneous (native yeast) and classic Northern Rhone fermentation(s), with tank and concrete and partial whole-cluster, depending on the vintage and what the vines give, with elevage mostly in used barrels, as this wine saw, mainly larger demi-muids. His Condrieu, one of the best and most mineral driven I’ve tried, is absolutely awesome stuff, the 2014, 2015 and 2016 lieu-dit “Châtillon” versions were insanely good, these wines not to miss whites for Viognier lovers. When I tasted with Xavier, as I’ve said in my prior reviews, I couldn’t take my mind of his Côte-Rôtie, with the robustly tannic 2013, the lighter 2014 and his 2015, that shows that vintage’s deep concentration to perfection, all blew my mind and made me a huge fan of this winery. The domaine has some spectacular vineyard holdings in both Côte-Rôtie and here in Condrieu, these granite soiled steep, craggy slopes of the vineyards demand that all work be done by hand and the yields are naturally small, helping with ripe flavors and density in this cooler zone. Interestingly until recently, Gérard’s Condrieu La Cote Châtillon, that comes from one of the estate’s finest sites, situated in the middle of the slope overlooking the Rhone with extremely stony/rocky terrain, has been their flagship and most coveted wine, but Xavier’s touch with Syrah has changed that. This latest Saint-Joseph wine, while having a baby Côte-Rôtie presence, is a stunning value for Syrah lovers and a great way to start to understand the wines of this vigneron’s collection of wines and I highly recommend this Le Blanchard, especially this stunning vintage, though hard to find, as it is a very limited offering, it is really a wine to chase down!
($46 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive