Hello friends. One of our biggest hits of 2015 was this killer little Luberon Syrah called Val Joanis. I suspect many of you remember that wine fondly. You may also remember that we had the equivalent of a last-call, going-out-of-business-sale, stating that “recently our import partner let me know that they and Joanis had decided to part ways.”
And indeed they did part ways. And the wine was out of the Seattle market. But you know how with certain breakups, time and reflection lead to a mutual sense of regret and loss, and you decide to give it another shot? Well, we have the equivalent of that in the wine trade today.
Whether this leads to a long-term happy marriage or another short fling, who knows? At least we have today.
2015 Val Joanis Luberon Tradition Syrah
[Note: the Syrah will be the main thrust of today’s offer, but we do have access to a terrific little parcel of Joanis Rosé as well. See below.]
Let’s dig back into this wine and 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. Cotes du Luberon fits on that 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 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: During the Quaternary Era, erosion phenomena caused the appearance of broad deposits of limestone and gravel, forming an exceptionally favorable soil. The vineyard spreads over the hills, at altitudes from 280 meters (945 feet) to 499 meters (1637 feet) at its highest point. 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.
It clocks in at 14% listed alc and offers a nose that reminded me of nothing so much as a mixed olive tapenade: wonderfully briny and salty and savory. Look for complementary notes of blackberry fruit and roasted rosemary; the whole thing is just as appetizing as it sounds. I love the palate, too, which sees a bright vein of old-world acidity paired to a core of rich berry fruit that wouldn’t be out of place in the new world. It’s a tweener Syrah, with something for everyone, and it’s one that is a fine value in a mediocre vintage, but lights out in a fabulous vintage like ’15.
2016 Val Joanis Luberon Tradition Rose
Here is a well-priced rosé kicker from Joanis, made from Syrah and Grenache. Pale pink and 13% listed alc, it begins with a nose of honeydew, green strawberry, and fennel frond. The palate balances rich, delicious (okay, my note says “yumball”) fruit with bright acidity and a touch of spritz from dissolved CO2. Not a wine to overthink. This is gluggable porch-pounder territory.
First come first served up to 48 bottles total, and the wines should arrive in the next week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.