The Intuition vineyard is incredibly unique from the rest of the Rhône valley.
Instead of the industrial corridor of the river valley where most vines are planted, Intuition is set in a bucolic environment, surrounded by scrubby woodland, high above the river on a plateau. This setting is incredibly important when you are interested in biodiversity, as is Nicolas. This biodiversity allows for a natural equilibrium that limits the development of disease in the vineyard. He isn’t just following the rule book of organics in order to have the certification; instead, he is actually living the spirit of that philosophy. The Intuition vineyard is central to the person he is. It is also notable that he has no other employees, as he shoulders all of the work in the vineyards and winery solo, creating a direct line between himself and the terroir.
Nicolas likes to explain that his wine-making is non-formulaic: he adapts it to the unique conditions of each vintage. The essence of his philosophy is to make terroir and finesse-driven wines that are pure, precise, clean, and transparent. The wines are meant to be well-structured, yet also approachable and easy to drink. We tend to agree, as Nicolas’ wines are captivating upon release, yet will undoubtedly reward the patience of those who add a case to their cellars.
The newest plantings in his vineyards are all selection massale syrah from very old vineyards in Côte Rôtie, Hermitage, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. He is using these to replace any dead or missing vines in his other vineyards.
In the Saint-Joseph appellation, Nicolas produces two single-vineyard wines. His Saint-Joseph from the Montrond vineyard (simply labeled as Saint-Joseph) is a fresh, full, vibrant expression of syrah grown near the village of Limony, in the northern part of the appellation at 300m elevation, overlooking the Rhône river. Situated on a small ridge, the soils of this vineyard are made up of partially decomposed granite. The site is exposed to both north and south winds, the excellent ventilation lending to organic viticulture. Syrah vines here are between 15-25 years old. These factors combine to create a very fresh, fruit-forward expression of Saint-Joseph with all of the signature peppery-dark fruit and drinkability one expects, with an unexpected extra refinement from his exceptional farming. This is not your average Saint-Joseph.
Badel Saint-Joseph “Les Mourrays” comes from a special parcel of 50-year-old syrah vines directly above the village of Limony, also on decomposed granitic soils. Though very close to Montrond (also on the plateau above Limony), the granite soil of this parcel is far more decomposed, where the old-vines have had time to break through the friable soil, digging much deeper. Though fairly flat, the site’s incline faces south, therefore offering protection from the cold northerly winds and excellent sun exposure for most of the day. All of these attributes make for a more structured wine with fine tannins and good age-ability. Les Mourrays always has brooding aromatics with peppery, black fruit, and a licorice note. The fruit is always cool, supple, and framed by great acidity. The wines are never heavy and can verge on the power of Cornas when tasted blind. Sometimes we are able to obtain a handful of cases from his 0.4 hectares Condrieu vineyard which, unsurprisingly, is light, mineral, and elegant, much like his red wines.
Nicolas Badel has earned his status in France as a highly respected, cult northern Rhône producer, whose wines are becoming harder to come by as more drinkers are exposed to the quality and relative value of his exacting wines. Without a doubt, these are the Saint-Joseph wines of the future and we are thrilled to be here for the ride.