2016 Domaine du Grand Montirail, Gigondas, Cuvee Vieilles Vignes, Rhone Valley, France.
The gorgeous 2016 Domaine du Grand Montmirail old vines Gigondas cuvee, typically a blend is 80% Grenache, 5% Syrah and 5% Mourvèdre from 30-65 year-old vines, delivering a full bodied and concentrated effort with a deep purple/crimson color and remarkable purity and transparency, showing loads of perfectly ripe dark fruit, floral tones, mineral notes and spiced nuances. This wine is sumptuous and comforting on the dense palate with lovely Grenache led and terroir driven charm, I’ve been a long time fan of this property over the years, but this 2016 really is something special with boysenberry, black plum, sweet currants and kirsch fruit along with lavender, chalky stones and licorice all merging in hedonistic joy. Most of the bottles I’ve had from Domaine du Grand Montmirail were imported by San Francisco’s Charles Neal (who’s got his own special bottlings) and while their are various importers for the estate, Charles has given me most of my knowledge about Yves Cheron, the vigneron at Domaine du Grand Montmirail, which was started originally by his father who moved to the southern Rhone from Burgundy. Denis Cheron, a Beaune native bought the Cave du Grand Comtadiné in Vacqueyras in the 1960’s where he vinified grapes for scores of local producers, as well as himself and created a negoçiant firm called Pascal. One of Denis’ first client suppliers was the owner of the Domaine du Grand Montmirail, a wonderfully situated property in the southeastern part of Gigondas, that he later acquired, as Neal notes, and the rest is history. Yves, a graduate in enological studies in Beaune, has the winery in league with the very best in the region, like the famous Saint Cosme, and his Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre comes from vines planted exclusively on the hillsides and terraces, known locally as banquettes, with these vineyards being situated directly on the southern slope of the Dentelles de Montmirail. It is a superb area, with soft breezes, Mediterranean weather and a few natural springs to hydrate the vines, all combining for these warm, textural and flavorful wines, it is dominated by towering granite cliffs and an amazing view of the famous Mount Ventoux off in the distance. Based close to the small town of Suzette, Domaine du Grand Montmirail is a remote treasure isolated from the worries of the world, where the famous range Dentelles de Montmirail cast a impressive shadow above the winery and the scent of the garrigue (rosemary, thyme, sage) is ever present in the air.
The winemaking at Domaine du Grand Montmirail is classically simple and guided by experience and traditions with Cheron concentrating his main efforts in the vineyards and carefully working the land, he is focused on quality fruit. The subsoils of Grand Montmirail’s parcels are composed of sedimentary clay from when the ancient seas covered this site, also the rise of the Alps created many rifts, including the emergence of the impressive rocky barriers that are the Dentelles, and this clay is littered with small pieces of limestone, its this that helps give Grand Montmirail its round, approachable texture and structure. The soil is well-drained, but drought is rarely a problem, because of the mentioned springs. The wines, as Neal goes on, always have a an extraordinary elegance, moderated alcohols and smoothness that, he adds, which much of the appellation finds difficult to obtain.The grapes are carefully sorted and 100% de-stemmed then the must is cooled and the pre-fermentation period lasts several days in order to extract pigment and primary aromas of the grapes. Only indigenous yeasts are used, and typically primary fermentation lasts close to two weeks, and the wine is handled extremely gently with it getting pressed in a bladder press. Cheron ages his wines in enamel-lined tanks in the temperature-controlled winery, with underground vats that naturally remain cool. As noted above, there is no oak is used during the wine’s élévage, again to promote freshness and clarity, to transmit the place and grapes directly into the wine without added accents. The altitude of the vineyards varies between 300 and 350 meters, which is among the highest in Gigondas, this allows more natural acidity that shows in the detail and vibrancy. The Domaine du Grand Montmirail harvest starts with their Syrah, the quickest grape, interestingly to ripen here, then the Grenache starts coming in next from in the highest sites and last, but not least the latest picks are of Mourvèdre with its later ripening characteristic giving richness and refined tannin. Tasting these wines over the years, I just get more and more impressed with these Grand Montmirail offerings, with the Cotes du Rhone(s) as well as the Vacqueyras being a wonderful bargains and this 2016 Vieilles Vignes Gigondas, sometimes seen with cuvee Juliette on the label, performing even better than expectations, it also is awesome with hearty cuisine and or simple country fare.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive