03 Jul Domaine Stephan

Jean-Michel Stephan

Côte Rôtie

Former Guigal assistant Jean-Michel Stephan launched his modest enterprise in 1991. He has eight acres of mostly old vines in various parcels in Côte Rôtie’s southern sector. These holdings include a high percentage of prized Sérine, the expressive, small berry ancestor of Syrah.

The majority of the domaine’s vines are in two perfectly-situated hillside lieux-dits: the Côteaux de Tupin and the Côteaux de Bassenon. Jean-Michel’s home and cellar are in the tiny village of Tupin-Semons at the base of his 1.2 acre Côteaux de Tupin parcel. The Bassenon site is on the southern border of the appellation next to Condrieu and includes some of the oldest vines in Côte Rôtie. Part of this 3.7 acre (1.5 hectare) vineyard was planted in 1896 with another parcel added in 1902. Jean-Michel, who did his enology studies in Belleville, Beaujolais, is a disciple of Beaujolais native Jules Chauvet, France’s legendary father of natural winemaking. He tends his steep hillside vineyards without the use of chemicals and ploughs either by horse or by winch. His classic Côte Rôtie is a blend of Syrah and Viognier from various parcels, but he also isolates the domaine’s two distinct terroirs in separate, limited-production bottlings. Domaine Stephan’s Côteaux de Tupin is 100% Sérine. In most years, Jean-Michel bottles his Côteaux de Bassenon using the vineyard’s old-vine Sérine and Viognier in combination with the younger Syrah planted on the site. In vintages where Jean-Michel gets at least 15 hectoliters per hectare out of his ancient Bassenon vines, he makes a cuvée called Vieille Vigne en Côteaux, and uses the balance of the fruit from that vineyard for his classic Côte Rôtie. The abstract artwork for the two single-vineyard Côte Rôties, by the way, was at one time magnet-mounted on the Stephan family’s refrigerator, the artists being Jean-Michel’s young sons (now teenagers), Romain and Dorian.

Since the turn of the millennium, Domaine Stephan’s wines have garnered accolades from the most respected European and American wine critics, including consistent 92-96 scores from James Molesworth of the Wine Spectator.

DOMAINE FACTS

Vines: Just over 8 acres spread out over 7 parcels in the southern part of Côte Rôtie appellation including 1.2 acres on the Côteaux du Tupin and 3.7 acres on the Côteaux de Bassenon. Vines are farmed organically (not certified).
Wines: Côte Rôtie Classic – 90% Syrah from various parcels, 10% Viognier from Tupin
Côte Rôtie Côteaux de Tupin – 100% Sérine (vines planted in 1941 with some replaced in 1993)
Côte Rôtie Côteaux de Bassenon – 60% Syrah, 30% Sérine, 10% Viognier (oldest vines planted in 1896 and 1902)
Côte Rôtie Vieille Vigne en Côteaux – Special selection of oldest Sérine (85%) and Viognier (15%) from Bassenon
Soil: Granitic-gneiss with white mica (light color is origin of name Côte Blonde)
Côteaux de Bassenon contains some dark mica (Biotite or Migmatite Sombre) which is more prevalent in northern part of appellation (name Côte Brune comes from darker soils)
Harvest: Steep slopes require manual harvest using small bins
Yields: 25 hectoliters/hectare on average
Minuscule 15 to 20 hectoliters/hectare for Tupin and Bassenon old vines
Vinification & Elevage: Whole cluster, carbonic fermentation with indigenous yeast. Élevage takes place in a combination of new, one, and two-year-old oak barrels for a period of 16 to 22 months. Côte Rôties are racked only once and not filtered.
Annual Production:
9,600 bottles / 800 cases + small amount of Syrah and Viognier VDP de Rhodaniennes