Saint Cosme Chateau de Rouanne Vinsobres
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Type Red BlendRead About the Wine
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You probably don’t recognize this wine, or its appellation, but you might just recognize the styling of the label. That’s because it’s almost identical to one of the most highly regarded southern Rhone producers there is - the family of Louis and Cherry Barruol. The Barruols, along with father Henri, are the scions of an ancient Rhone winemaking family based in Gigondas, with their most famous property being Chateau Saint-Cosme (and they now actually own properties in New York State and Oregon as well).
I always felt the father, Henri, made outstanding, if a bit rustic, Rhone wine. But the son, who took over in 1992, brought Saint Cosme up to another level entirely. He’s now been making wine for three decades, and we here at Waterford have been selling and cellaring his wines for quite some time. And every vintage, and with every bottle, we grow more respectful of his hard work.
So it was with great excitement that we learned there would be a new wine coming from the Barrouls in the 2018 or 2019 vintage. A wine from a place we’d barely heard of, Rouanne in Vinsobres, but Louis assured us that this was as magical a terroir that he had ever seen. Let’s quickly get you geographically situated:
You’ve probably heard of the term “Cotes du Rhone”, which is a large French appellation (AOC) in the Southern Rhone. A “higher” tier, meaning hopefully higher quality wine, is to append that AOC with the term “Villages”. And then, if you want to go higher still, you would add a specific village name. The most famous is Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Here, the southern Rhone French village of Vinsobres got “promoted” to AOC status in 2006. Not much is made, hence its relative obscurity. Rouanne is a single hillside limestone slope within this appellation. This slope was first planted to vine in Roman times, with the site being known as “Rugius” (later transliterated to Rouanne).
The limestone, and then the “Pontias” wind - a cool wind that blows down every night from the Alps - to Louis, meant that this was the perfect site for producing a Rhone wine of maximum distinction. The limestone and wind provide freshness and minerality, while the mixture of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre in the warm climate of the southern Rhone give the wine density, richness and power. And he is not wrong, because this is outstanding wine:
Black cherry, black raspberry liqueur, and plum dominate the first wave but with 30 minutes of air, the Southern Rhône firework show begins: garrigue, graphite, cacao nibs, vanilla bean, licorice, rock dust, baked clay, and exotic spices. The palate is full-bodied and edgeless, each layer melding into the next, and the slow-building finish arrives with a core of warm berry fruit and finely crushed minerals. As you’ll discover, this feels and tastes exactly like blue-chip Châteaneuf, and it’ll age like it too: You can enjoy one now but I expect this wine can go for 10 - 15 or more years in your cellar!