100% Merlot. Hervé Souhaut created his now cult winery, Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet in 1993. Hervé works 5-hectares of old and ancient vines—between 50 to 100 years old. He is very fortunate to own two vineyards in the Rhône Valley just opposite the storied hills of Hermitage in Saint Joseph. This is the true, traditional region of Saint Joseph, not the expanded flatlands that came later. The winery is underneath the 16th century “les romaneaux” fortified farm and sits in the middle of the vines that make up some of his best wines. Hervé works entirely on whole grape bunches and semi-carbonic maceration. His philosophy is natural and to extract a delicate balance of tannins from the grapes, to make a wine with subtlety and finesse, but we must say his wines have such a fantastic level of purity and acidity that they can last for decades. Le Petit Merle Ardéchois is a recent small plantation of Merlot in d’Arlebosc, Vallée du Doux, just 0.3ha of young vines (5yrs on average) at 450 meters of altitude on granite soils. The grapes are hand-harvested and sorted, then fermented as whole bunches at cool temperature using only indigenous yeasts, with regular punch-downs, but no pumping over. The wine is then aged in old French oak barrels and bottled unfined, unfiltered with very little sulfur at bottling. This wine is all black fruits, fresh earth, leather, and velvet tannins that glide over the tongue. A lovely new take on Merlot from a producer that is associated with other varietals. Pick up as many bottles as you can because only a little of Souhaut’s wines make it stateside!