1991 Domaine Jean-Louis Grippat St-Joseph


Every now and then you taste a bottle that resonates even more the following day. That is certainly the case with this bottle, generously opened at Noble Rot restaurant for me and sommelier, winemaker and now writer, Rajat Parr. This was my first encounter with Jean-Louis Grippat, who took a surprising early retirement in 2000 at age 59, and sold his holdings to Guigal the following March. Grippat’s cellars were based in Tournan and Mauve. He practiced a traditional style of vinification somewhat out of step with the fashion of the time that favored late picking and lavish new oak. Though Grippat owned vines in Hermitage, he was apparently more devoted to St-Joseph, his vines located in the original namesake lieu-dit on the steep hill of Chapon. According to John Livingston-Learmonth’s essential tome on the Northern Rhône, Grippat owned 5.5 hectares of Syrah and 1.5 hectares of Marsanne. Guigal subsequently augmented his purchase with another acquisition in St-Joseph and applied different winemaking techniques, so now the wines are not exactly the same.

The 1991 St-Joseph shows only modest bricking on the rim. The bouquet is exquisite with scents of melted tar, fennel, cloves and hung game/dried blood, all intertwined with gorgeous black, slightly plummy fruit. Whilst you cannot deny the bucolic element of this St-Joseph, it merely enhances these captivating aromatics. The palate does not disappoint. It is beautifully balanced, gently grippy and like many 1991 Northern Rhônes, intense and voluminous. Boasting copious damson, tobacco, garrigue and a liberal sprinkling of white pepper, the 1991 gently fans out on the finish whilst maintaining superb definition. After 28 years this is probably à point. It might well be the best St-Joseph that I have ever drunk. 95/Drink 2019-2032.