2 from Val Joanis

Hello friends. I love offers like this one, where I taste a fabulous wine that I know nothing about, then have to fall deep down the research rabbit hole to understand why it’s as good as it is. [Note: in this case, the research even yielded a second wine to offer from the same producer; a white that can be found at the bottom of the offer.]

2011 Val Joanis Luberon Tradition Syrah

This landed in my glass at the end of a long day of tasting (I know: tough life), where I was grumpier than normal and less inclined to like whatever I was tasting. To say it cut through the clutter of the day would be an understatement. I’m just going to transcribe my note directly from my notebook:

super umami; FUNKY; loads of briney olives; lots of brackish seashore notes (kelp and sea salt); blackberry fruit; terrific salinity on 13.5%-alc palate mixed w/ brambly fruit and loads of continuing savories; has a sense of funkiness that lovers of Wash. Syrah will appreciate; unfashionable AOC = well priced; this is Washington meets Crozes!

I was excited by the wine. As you can tell. And I was also excited to dig into why it was so compelling. Let’s begin with the AOC: Luberon. There are all these incredible values to be found on the outskirts of the Rhone Valley. We’ve previously dug up Lou Ven Tou and Lou Bar Rou from Cotes du Ventoux, and Domaine des Rozets from Grignan-les-Adhemar. Now we can add Cotes du Luberon to the list as well.

As you can see from Joanis’ location, we’re in a transition zone here between the Rhone and Provence. You may recall there was a time when no one had heard of Gigondas and Vacqueyras, and so those regions produced terrific values. I’d argue that places like Ventoux and Luberon are now stepping up and occupying that value space. The regions are still uneven, but that’s okay: as you know, we don’t mind tasting through a lot of dreck to find the gems.

This particular gem has a terrific back-story, too. The Joanis estate has a long history. How long is a little unclear, but it appeared in a land register in 1575 with the exact same boundaries it has today. The 1800s and early 1900s were not kind to the estate, which was overgrown by forest in 1977 when the current owner (Jean-Louis Chancel) purchased it. But evidence of vineyards and olive groves was scattered throughout the estate, and Chancel proceeded to embark on a twenty-year rehabilitation project, in the end planting out 186 hectares of vineyards (and some olive trees as well). He also built a winery on the property inspired by the architecture of the Dominican Order, along with gardens so beautiful that they were named among the “Notable Gardens of France” by the French Ministry of Culture (here’s just one picture of the gardens). Sounds like a place we should probably all aim to visit.

And then there are the vineyards. Here’s what the winery says: [TEXT WITHHELD]. And more to the point, here is what the vineyard looks like, a thick layer of pebble stones above anything resembling “soil.” Many of the wines produced in this region are Grenache-based, as you’d expect from the southern Rhone, but Val Joanis’ estate vineyards are planted predominantly to Syrah. And thank goodness for that, because this is one savory-wonderful expression of Syrah, priced like a midweek house wine but with enough complexity to serve on special occasions.

2012 Val Joanis Luberon Tradition Roussanne

As you’d imagine, my next question for the importer after tasting the Syrah: what else do you have from Val Joanis? And as it turned out, they have a small parcel of a lovely Roussanne from the same estate vineyards. It clocks in at 13% listed alc and offers an alluring nose of peach fruit, almond nuttiness, and an earthy-green component akin to fresh hay. The palate sees a wonderful mix of rich fruit with a sturdy acid-mineral spine, and the flavors seamlessly combine ripe stone fruits with salty nutty notes. For anyone stuck in a Chardonnay rut, this is a fleshy, palate-coating marvel, sharing much in common texturally with Chard but possessing a completely different flavor profile. Rhone Whites from the trendier AOCs can be wallet-shattering; I’m just crazy about the price point here.

The only drawback is that the parcels of both of these wines are fairly limited. Please limit order requests to 6 bottles of Syrah and 6 bottles of Roussanne, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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