2016 Domaine Saint Damien, Gigondas “La Louisiane” Vieilles Vignes, Southern Rhone Red, France.
The awesome 2016 La Louisiane old vine cuvee from Saint-Damien is an intensely dark purply Rhone blend of 80% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre, plus a 5% remaining balance of Cinsault and Syrahwith amazing depth and complex, while still being wonderfully easy to drink, a hallmark of this vintage. Layered with blackberry/raspberry, boysenberry, plum and pomegranate fruits and a sweet nose of lilac and roses flows across the palate with hints of kirsch, anise, garrigue (lavender/sage) and a touch of exotic spices. This beauty of a Gigondas is from all organic vines set on sandy clay and red old alluvium soils with broken cailloux (round rocks) strewn throughout which shows in the lovely color, density and depth here and these vines, primary Grenache over 70 years old, this parcel was planted in 1942, give this wine ripe tannin and age worthy structure. With air the Gigondas La Louisiane gains a meaty power with sanguine, leather and peppery elements adding some soulful charm to this fantastic year’s silken and expressive fruit. Saint-Damien does three Gigondas, the normal and two single parcel wines of which this La Louisiane is from their oldest Grenache blocks, they also do a Gigondas Rosé, which is mostly Cinsault, two Côtes-du-Rhône(s) one Syrah based and one Grenache based, both of with are insanely good, like Saint Cosme and they also do a unique Vin de Pays Rouge made from two rare grapes, it’s 50% Caladoc, 50% Marselan, Marselan is a red French wine grape variety, found it the south of France as well as in Italy and Uruguay that is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache.and the exceptionally rare Caladoc that is a crossing of Grenache and Malbec, created by Paul Truel, who also bred the Marselan, in 1958.
One of the great values of the Southern Rhone, Domaine Saint-Damien, run by Joel, and his son Romain Saurel, is an old school traditional producer of top Gigondas, the winery is named after St. Damien, who was an early Christian saint considered the patron saint of doctors. There was a chapel to his honor in the tiny hamlet of La Baumette, just outside the village of Gigondas, where Joel Saurel has his cellars and lives, hence the name his family used for the domaine. The Saurel’s, with Romain now much more involved in the winemaking, keep things simple in the cellar trying to focus on the terroir and the vineyards, use traditional techniques, and with this wine used native yeast vinification with maceration lasting for about 6 weeks in concrete vats, with regular pump overs before racking to large foudre where it was aged just over a year. They really put a lot of attention to detail in the vineyards so they can pick a bit later without losing the energy of the wine which they bottle unfined and unfiltered, and while full bodied and richly textured it has superb balance and rustic charms with mineral/stone and earthy elements adding a contrast to the opulent fruit. This 2016 gets better and better in the glass, it’s a wine that expresses everything that it can and has that extra bit more that puts it in that special place among wines a level of greatness that is not pretentious, but magical, especially if you are a Grenache lover! Drink this glorious vintage for the next 10 to 15 years, though as mentioned it is hard to resist even now!
($36 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive