Denis Basset’s family has grown flowers and wine grapes for a long time. For years their emphasis was on the flowers and they sold the grapes to others. Then Denis touched a live, 20,000 volt power line and nearly died. The near-electrocution caused him to reflect, and in the hospital he resolved to take up the job he had always dreamed of: making wine. Thus was born the Domaine St. Clair, a new but excellent producer of Crozes-Hermitage and St. Joseph. The red Crozes is named “Etincelle” (spark) in honor of Denis’s inspiration (the label contains the lines of an electrical field). But from what’s in the bottle one might think that he had been making wine all his life.
Basset makes two cuvées of red Crozes — Etincelle and “Fleur Enchantée.” The latter is a reference to the family’s other business, and the wine comes from the property’s oldest vines. On the other side of the Rhône he farms a small parcel of St. Joseph that might as well be in Côte Rôtie, given the steepness of its slopes. He dubs it the “Abimes de l’Enfer” (Abyss of Hell), and despite the name the wine is a pleasure to drink.
There is also a barrel-fermented white made from Marsanne and Roussane. It is so popular among local restaurants that we waited four years before getting our small allocation. With only a decade of winemaking under his belt, Denis is firmly established as a top producer in the appellation.