2019 Domaine Saint-Damien, Gigondas “La Louisiane” Vieilles Vignes, Rhone Valley, France.
The exciting dark garnet/purple 2019 version of Saint-Damien’s La Louisiane is not far off the fantastic 2018 and might be its equal as it ages, but it is absolutely thrilling right now with classic black raspberry, plum, pomegranate and a deep sense of creme de cassis along with violets, peppercorns and black licorice. The Grenache in this wine, which dominates this blend, is brilliantly pleasing and deeply flavorful and the body is luxuriously supple. After the first impression fades there is additional complexity and savory tones that emerge and a rustic underlying sultry earthiness that continues to intrigue here and there is a lingering crunch, incense, sticky lavender and stoniness. Influenced by its terroir, that is located in the des Dentelles de Montmirail range, the Domaine Saint-Damien, named for the Christian martyr, comes from vines set in the rocky hillsides on marls, a mix of limestone, sand and hardened clay soils. There is good exposure here in these terraced vineyards that get plenty of warm sunshine through the days, getting some Mistral breezes and its high elevation coolness at night allows for perfect ripening of the grapes, which include mainly Grenache of course as well as Mourvedre, Cinsault and Syrah. Saint-Damien is really on a roll, since the 2016 vintage especially, with their Cru bottlings like this one and their Les Souteyrades being outstanding efforts that I high recommend for Rhone fans, as well as their basic Gigondas Classique, that is also a ridiculous good value. This big and powerful 2019 La Louisiane, like all of Saint-Damien’s wines, is sourced from all organic vineyards, with exceptionally low yields and painstakingly hand tended vineyards and made with old school traditional methods in the cellar.

The Domaine Saint-Damien, founded back 1821 is a small family winery in the southern Rhone based in the famed Gigondas AOC and is run by Joel and Amie Saurel with their son Romain who is the current winemaker, this is one of the Rhone’s great properties and treasures, especially for me, these wines are some of my personal favorites, like this fantastic 2019 and the mentioned nearly perfect 2018 old vines La Louisiane that had and reviewed on my birthday a few years ago. The Domaine Saint-Damien La Louisiane cuvée, is a blend of 80% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre and 5% of both Syrah and Cinsault, all aged in foudre, as I have noted before, comes from a special set of small parcels or a micro Lieu-Dits, set on the classic clay, sand and limestones soils with some alluvial red stones. This Gigondas was crafted using mainly Grenache that was planted in 1942, along with 15% Mourvèdre that was planted in 1977, plus a tiny amount of Cinsault planted back in1951 and some Syrah. The grapes are fermented separately in cement vats and then blended after a cool primary fermentation and maceration, which lasts close to 6 weeks for deep extraction and intensity. Then the blended La Louisiane saw about a year in mostly used French oak barrels and was bottled unfined and unfiltered, which makes for a gloriously concentrated and pure Gigondas that rivals almost anything coming out of the more fancied Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Gigondas itself is riding high with quality these days and Saint-Damien, along with Chateau de Saint Cosme by the legendary Louis Barruol, who makes a wine that I couldn’t possibly live without, Domaine Le Sang des Cailloux (the blood of the stone), Adrien Roustan’s little known, but outstanding Domaine d’Ourea, Les Pallieres and others are all making some of the most compelling wines in the Southern Rhone! This vintage has proven to be excellent and I suggest chasing down these hard to get beauties from Saint-Damien.
($38 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

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