2020 Domaine Santa Duc, Gigondas, Aux Lieux-Dits, Rhône Valley, France.
A bit deeper and more complex than the prior release, this fantastic opaque purple/black 2020 Aux Lieux-Dits Gigondas by the famous Domaine Santa Duc reveals smoky bacon, crushed lilacs, mountain sage and red berry coulis on the nose which leads to a full bodied palate of classic Southern Rhône joy. The mouth feel and presence is very much inline with a top Grenache based Châteauneuf-du-Pape with an impressive and powerful layering of boysenberry, plum, currant jam, black cherry and Mission fig fruits, all accented nicely by aromatic sage, crushed stones, subtle sandalwood, anise and snappy lavender. This is serious stuff, structured and while meaty and gripping, it does open up to an opulent and wonderfully proportioned wine that really does best with a hearty meal. As mentioned, I had a 1996 version of Santa Duc Gigondas recently, even though well mature and peaking, it was glorious, so don’t be afraid to put a few of these Domaine Santa Duc Gigondas bottles in your long term cellar, I see this one going 20 plus years. The wines here at Domaine Santa Duc are old school efforts coming from special massale selections of mostly Grenache, but with Mourvèdre, Syrah and some Cinsault as well, as I’ve noted before, that goes into these incredible Rhône blends. All farmed by hand and with biodynamic and true holistic methods, while In the cellar the winemaking team uses lots of whole cluster vinification with the Gigondas seeing fermentation with wild yeasts and minimum interventions, capturing all the terroir nuances in the Dentelles de Montmirail area. The hilly Gigondas zone, with hardened clay, marl, limestone and schist soils, higher up and a slightly cooler area typically show off a fresher sense of detail, mineral and even in a low percentage, display the Syrah’s personality in many ways, as this one does.

The Domaine Santa Duc, most famous for their Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas, employe an all manual harvest in small crates with, as the winery explains, sorting in the vineyard, followed by a second on the sorting table in the cellar to be sure of absolute quality. They also do, what they call partial de-stemming with the percentage of whole bunches and stems being decided according to the best needs of vintage and with consideration of the plots of vines themselves. The must sees a gravity vatting and fermentation for 20 to 30 days in stainless steel vats under controlled temperatures to heighten the aromatics and show off purity of form in the wines. The malolactic fermentation is also done and encouraged in tank as well, which also makes for a more clean and stable process. The Domaine Santa Duc, as noted in prior reviews, Gigondas, and the Châteauneuf du Pape Rouge efforts, typically ages for about 18 months in large 36-hectoliter Stockinger (Austrian) oak barrels and uniquely in some eight-hectoliter terracotta jars, after that the wines are bottled without fining or filtration. The famous Domaine Santa Duc, located at the foot of the mentioned legendary Dentelles de Montmirail mountain range that is the spine of the region in the Gigondas zone, with complex soils, based on clay and marl, with the sixth generation of winegrowers, Benjamin Gras, now carrying on the family’s history and tradition here to great effect, as his latest wines show. This Aux Lieux-Dits Gigondas is made usually with about 75% Grenache Noir, 10% Syrah, 13% Mourvèdre and 2% Cinsault, and these non-filtered wines show their sense of place and are proudly robust and earthy, and are somewhat gritty and raw when released, but as noted above, they gain tremendous sex appeal and character with some aging, I highly recommend these Santa Duc wines.
($45 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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