50 kilometres north of Nice is a small town called Villars-sur-Var. We are quite far away from the wine regions. Closer to Nice is the appellation Bellet and further west is the Côtes de Provence. But Villars-sur-Var also has vineyards. One of the few wine growers here is Roch Sassi. His small domain of 4 hectares is called Clos Saint Joseph.
His wines are a part of the Côtes de Provence appellation despite the secluded location. Still, quite a few tourists and Nice inhabitants find their way up here to buy his wines. The rumour has spread that there is an ambitious wine-grower in Villars-sur-var. Roch’s father Antoine Sassi already made quality wine here in the early 1990s. So the rumour is well-founded and a large part of the production is sold to restaurants on the Riviera and to passers-by.
If you are in Nice, it is a good idea to visit Villars-sur-Var and Clos Saint Joseph. The wines are good and the surroundings are fantastic. The landscape is mountainous and dramatically powerful. The ski resorts are getting closer and you are far away from the sophisticated Côte d’Azur. The climate is a bit cooler than the rest of the Côtes de Provence.
Roch makes red, white and rose from his 4 hectares. An additional 2 hectares are coming into production soon. Syrah is his most important red grape and he also grows grenache, cabernet sauvignon, mourvèdre and some carignan and cinsault. For the white wines, he uses rolle (also called vermentino), sémillon, ugni blanc and little clairette. He also runs a project to reintroduce old grape varieties, such as grassenc (or alternatively grassen), a grape variety previously used in the area.
Clos Saint Joseph 2015, Côtes de Provence, Blanc de Blanc
I like the taste with its “fatness” and body and the distinct southern feeling. There are floral aromas on the relatively discreet nose. Here the mouth feeling is the most important rather than the bouquet. ~25-28 euro
Clos Saint Joseph Syrah 2015, Côtes de Provence
A very typical syrah, full-bodied, dark berries on the nose and on the palate. Also violets and spices. A powerful wine but still quite easy drinking and with a soft after-taste. The oak is discreet (thank you) despite ageing for 18 months. Good freshness. ~25-28 euro
Delicious, well-made wines, but perhaps a touch expensive. We are, after all, in Provence.