1999 Domaine Brusset, Gigondas “Le Grand Montmirail” Rhone Valley, France.
When a friend of mine found and purchased a savvy cellar of vintage Rhone wines I became obsessed with finding some bargain gems in his set of wines that didn’t seem to have any re-sale value at this stage and wow, did we ever, with every bottle so far being absolute winners, especially this stunningly perfect Domaine Brusset Gigondas from one of my favorite southern Rhone vintages, 1999, which has proven to be way better than expected. Domaine Brusset, one of the great stars of the Gigondas region and farmed all biodynamic, is set on the higher part of AOC in the shadow of the Dentelles de Montmirail Massif mountain range with parcels of old bush vines mainly consisting of Grenache, but with high percentage of Cinsault, which always seems to deliver freshness and brightness to the wines here, as well as Syrah and Mourvedre, that adds a meaty structure and savory depth to these beautifully classic wines. While top Chateauneuf du Pape wines are known to age, though Cotes du Rhone Villages are not supposed to be notable cellar candidates, but I have found that both Vacqueyras and Gigondas, like this gorgeously compelling Domaine Brusset example, can and do age well and in some cases, they are even better than the more well known Chateauneufs! This 1999 Brusset Le Grand Montmirail Gigondas, which it should noted, had a fabulous cork with not a trace of bleed and was pulled easily from the bottle, which was a great sign and start, that gave me a huge sense of relief and set my expectations through the roof and I was not let down, the wine poured into the glass with its nearly youthful looking purple/garnet hue and a wonderful array of natural scents from the Rhone Valley with an earthy, spicy, burnt orange rind and delicate dried florals that hinted at its welcome maturity. The palate was fine and still excitingly raw with layers of blackberries, boysenberry, baked strawberry, wild plum, dusty fig, preserved blueberry and a tangy marmalade element to the fruit, along with just right amount of funk, leather, an iron rich mineral/beef broth, anise, herbs de Provence and lingering creme de cassis. There’s a dry extract feel with a touch of gritty tannin, a prominent feature of 1999 wines, that gives a sense of firmness that seems to melt away when food enters to picture and there’s a vibrant lift that keeps this well crafted Gigondas light on its feel, making for a joyous experience and focuses your attention on the purity of the flavors.
The 1999 vintage, placed between the critically acclaimed 1998 and much over hyped 2000, was a year that almost got lost, it wasn’t an easy vintage nor were all the wines that impressive, but there were many that over performed, as this wine from Domaine Brusset has done, plus I have always thought the 1999 Vieux Telegraphe, Mourvedre influenced, Chateauneuf, was one of the greatest of the nineties, and has led me to search out other wines from this often overlooked year. Domaine Brusset, founded by the late Andre Brusset, who established this family estate in 1947 and who passed away in 1999, making this a wonderful tribute to his leadership here, does sublime lineup of red wines from different Cotes du Rhone zones, including of course Gigondas, plus Cairanne, where the winery is based, as well as Ventoux, basic Côtes-du-Rhône and Rasteau. Today Andre’s grand son, Laurent Bresset runs the property and oversees their fantastic selection of vineyards, which as per normal here are 90% dedicated to the production of red wines, with just a small collection of white grapes including mainly Grenache Blanc, but with tiny amounts of Viognier, Roussane and Clairette Blanche. The Brusset Gigondas Le Grand Montmirail cuvee, as noted is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault, coming from what the winery calls a stony terraced vineyard site with alluvial soils and that is facing fully south to capture all the warm sun, offering a bit of protection from the cool Mistral winds. The Brusset winemaking is basic and traditional with their Gigondas Le Grand Montmirail seeing all de-stemmed (organic and carefully hand sorted) grapes, a native yeast fermentation and was aged in a combination of cement vats and older demi-muids (lager oak cask) to allow this wine to show off its terroir without the wood be too influential in the wine while still giving a roundness and smooth finish to this stylish effort. While finding this Brusset 1999, will certainly at this point, be a difficult find I highly recommend chasing down the 2015 and 2016 releases, which each Gigondas selection being the main focus, but for even great value look for their Cairanne, Rasteau and the outstanding vat raised Ventoux, which is always a killer bargain, made with the addition of Carignan and a co-ferment of the white Clairette, it is not far off the quality of the higher end Cotes du Rhone Village bottlings. The supple young wines at Brusset are to be admired and drunk freely, but they have solid aging potential, as this 1999 Le Grand Montmirail Gigondas clearly shows, it even got better on day two, which was an even more of a treat, confirming its rewarding poise.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive