Domaine de Gouye’s flagship Saint-Joseph, as many of you now know firsthand, is undoubtedly one of the very best in the appellation. Philippe Desbos’ tiny farmstead is situated just upslope from that of retired legend Raymond Trollat, and his wines deliver similar purity, soil character, and intensity at prices that are nothing short of miraculous.
Today’s wine, called “Gabouillon,” is designed to be an earlier-drinking, more gently priced Saint-Joseph Syrah, but in classic Desbos fashion, the wine over-delivers in dramatic fashion: Sourced from old, high-elevation estate vines that fall ever-so-marginally outside the Saint-Joseph appellation boundary, and aged for a shorter period before release, this wine is all about vibrancy and pure Syrah fruit expression—all for half the price of the flagship Saint-Joseph label. So what’s the catch? There isn’t one! The level of honesty and authenticity in Desbos’ handcrafted wines is second to none, and I can say with absolute certainty that it’s one of the most classic representations of northern Rhône Syrah at this price. “Gabouillon” will put a big smile on your face: Its combination of joyful drinking and sneaky seriousness is not to be missed!
Saint-Joseph is the west-bank backbone of the Rhône River and produces wines priced at mere fractions of nearby Syrah heavyweights Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie. However, not all Saint-Joseph is created equal: The appellation was extended to nearly 40 miles in length in 1969, prompting total vineyard acreage to jump from 240 hectares to 2,900 overnight. Still, when you uncover the best producers within Saint-Joseph—like Domaine de Gouye—they can far exceed entry-level wines from even the ‘blue-chip’ Northern Rhône regions.
The absolute best wine-producing towns of the appellation lie in the southern part of Saint-Joseph, just across the river from Hermitage. One of these towns, Saint-Jean-de-Muzols, is where the rustic Domaine de Gouye resides. Third-generation Philippe Desbos of Domaine de Gouye oozes old-school French authenticity. You’ll find him tilling the vineyards behind a horse, punching down grapes by foot, and using a hand-turned vertical press built in 1886. Today’s “Gabouillon” takes its name from a tiny hamlet stationed less than a mile from the domaine; Desbos’ small parcel of 50-year-old vines here push past 1,000 feet elevation. Soils are just like the vines that completely surround his house: decomposed granite. Along with the help of his plow horse (and a mechanical winch in the most precipitous sections), they tirelessly till the rows and follow strict sustainable practices until harvesting by hand. Afterwards, whole cluster grapes were sorted in the cellar and painstakingly foot-trodden. The grapes underwent a natural fermentation in large oak casks and then rested in a combination of stainless steel vats and old, neutral French barrels for seven months. Upon maturity, the wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered.
The 2017 “Gabouillon” reveals a dark purple, almost black core, leading out to beautifully vibrant magenta and bright purple hues on the rim. Seeing as this was bottled only months ago, breathtaking aromas are longing to escape. Right off the bat, floral rushes burst out of the glass, with fresh lilac, violet, and rose leading the charge alongside flower stems. High-toned, brambly fruits come next: You can expect blackberry, huckleberry, black raspberry, black cherry, and blue plums next to olive tapenade, crushed rocks, turned earth, garrigue, black pepper, and a touch of smoke. The palate is not as juicy or ripe as the nose suggests—it turns toward the rustic, old-school Syrah Domaine de Gouye is known for. Firm, slightly crunchy tannins persist alongside wild berries and layers of fresh earth and mineral components. The finish comes bright and savory, with a lingering olive note. This will age quite well over the next five years, but it’s already drinking like pure, youthful northern Rhône Syrah right now—just decant for 30 minutes and serve in Bordeaux stems around 60 degrees. Pair alongside a short ribs dish decorated with Provençal flair. Cheers!
Vin de France
Partial Neutral French Barrels