Just over 20 years ago, Herve Souhaut had an early mid-life crisis. He packed up his wife Beatrice and their Parisian life and moved lock stock and barrel to a tiny hamlet called Arlebosc, a little village so small and tucked away so perfectly in the hills of the Northern Ardeche that it is more than likely that you will drive right by.
While it was where Beatrice had grown up and where her parents still lived, for Herve, it was an adventure, a plunge into the unknown when he decided to throw the cards in the air and turn his weekend winemaking obsession into a profession.
Souhaut was a chemist who loved wine. A chance encounter with winemakers, Marcel Lapierre and Phillipe Pacalet led to his spending some time studying in Burgundy and a stint with those masters of natural winemaking, Dard & Ribo.
Souhaut converted the cellars of his in-laws’ farmhouse’s hunting lodge into a winery and over the years added parcels of vineyards and new plantings that now total 8.5 acres in St Joseph that are labeled under Souhaut and 20 acres of Vin de Pays vineyards whose cuvees are labeled Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet. Today Souhaut’s St Joseph Syrah, all black pepper, black cherry and violets with smooth tannins, the quintessential syrah, has become the “it” wine of the hipster set.
He also makes a syrah Vin de Pays de l’Ardeche, which is rustic and brambly and lively. There are two whites, a St Joseph, all Roussanne with flavors of apricot and orange that is elegant and a Vin de Pays de l’Ardeche that is Viognier and Roussanne that is floral and fresh.
Souhaut does not believe in oak, nor does he believe in meddling with the wine. He is also a believer in making wine that is immediately drinkable. This is in stark contrast to most wines from the Northern Rhone that are almost undrinkable in their youth. His winemaking techniques are old-fashioned but his style is definitely his own and therefore unique, giving his wines a subtlety and finesse and a level in purity that in the region only comes with age.
At Eli’s List, we have
2014 Souhaut Blanc, $43 / Magnum $104
2014 Souhaut Syrah, $44 / Magnum $105
2014 Souhaut Souteronne, $39
2012 Souhaut Saint Joseph, $60
2014 Souhaut Saint Joseph Cessieux $70