Aurélien Chatagnier: A St. Joseph in the Perfect Middle
Aurélien Chatagnier is one of our favorite discoveries from the Northern Rhone in recent memory and his St. Joseph is a wine we truly love. Why? Chatagnier's St. Joe strikes a poise in the perfect middle.
We first told our Newsletter subscribers his story a year or two ago. About how he studied in Beaune and then with the great Côte-Rôtie master, Villard. About how he started out on his own not so long ago. About how it took him a few years to find his way – there was a little too much new oak in the early days – but through patience and persistence has been able to create something great and rare: a top-flight Northern Rhône estate.
But what's so great about Chatagnier's St. Joseph?
The most famous St. Josephs are very serious and expensive wines from the likes of Gonon or Gripa, wines that require cellaring and special occasions. St. Joseph, unfortunately, is also known for the oceans of wines produced on its flatlands: boring examples of Syrah destined for the supermarket. Those, at least, have the benefit of moderate prices and a style that allows for casual wine drinking.
But there is plenty of space in St. Joseph for something in between. Look at a map, and you’ll see that St. Joseph is located directly in between Cornas, home to big burly Syrahs, and Condrieu, home to incredibly floral and elegant white wines. You might expect that some St. Josephs, at least, would find a happy middle between these extremes: some power, some elegance, and lots of juicy drinkability.
That is exactly what Chatagnier achieves. This is a wine that you can cellar, if you want, or that you can dress up and serve alongside “pheasant with lard,” as he suggested to John Livingstone-Learmonth (the great Northern Rhône critic who, by the way, heartily recommends Chatagnier’s wines). The wine comes from serious terroir of loose granite on upslope sites and is produced according to artisanal, Burgundy-inspired methods.
But you don’t have to go hunting to enjoy this wine! Drink it now, it’s ready enough. Serve it with Shake Shack or some salad if you like; St. Joseph has a casual side and this is a wine that can sport it like a shirt from untuckit.com. Best idea of all: grab a few bottles and try it both ways: