At yesterday's Fall Tasting we uncorked some 50+ bottles of wine along with a number of spirits, and though this bottle of Les Vins de Vienne "Sotanum" Syrah 2008 was near the end of the line, it easily refreshed most any palate with its vibrant waves of undulating complexities and definitive deliciousness.
Founded in 1996, when three of Rhone's most celebrated winemakers came together to put Seyssuel back on the map, Les Vins de Vienne was the first to plant vines at this most-northern tip on the left bank of the Rhone since the 19th century. And though Yves Cuilleron, Francois Villard and Pierre Gaillard are each regarded as superstar winemakers in their own right, it was their insight that brought them together to make wines from these stony, schist based south-southwest slopes.
First released in 1998, "Sotanum" is 100% Syrah Vin de Pays. And while there are now 12-14 other growers planting there, it will be some time before Seyssuel qualifies for AOP status. "It's a long process," said winemaker Pascal Lombard, who works with the trio, "they check the parcel and taste the wine over five to six years...It's very important for us to have the AOP but we can make good wine without it."
Employing organic practices in the vineyard, Vins de Vienne works very closely with its growers. And while they own 3ha in Seyssuel, the other parcels are rented, totaling 10ha of Syrah. "We're not seeking picture perfect bunches," said Pascal, "because you can't get that without chemicals." From these 10ha, a total of 7 parcels yield the fruit for this particular bottling.
In the cellar, the fruit is partially de-stemmed and each parcel is vinified separately. Gravity fed, the fruit is pressed and then vinified with indigenous yeast for 3-4 weeks at low temperatures. After spending 16 months in French oak casks, the "Sotanum" is bottled.
Referring "to the health benefits offered by the beverage" that was previously made from the vines on these hillsides, "Sotanum" offers purple flower aromas and fresh cherry fruit with a soft underlying minerality that grounds the palate before it's lifted skyward with brilliant acidity. The tannins are velvety and the finish kissed with a pepper spice that lingers alongside red fruit long after the wine has vanished from the glass.