2018 Domaine Saint-Damien, Gigondas “La Louisiane” Vieilles Vignes, Rhone Valley, France.
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 and nearly perfect 2018 old vine La Louisiane. I could hardly think of a better birthday treat to myself than this amazingly well drinking young Gigondas, this is exactly what I wanted and got, this vintage has more vitality and fresh detail than the warmer and more lavish 2017s, which don’t get me wrong were incredible wines too, it is just that extra sense of purity and the mineral notes really stand out here and there is excellent fruit dimension and definition that is fully on display here, these old vines give outstanding concentration without overt jamminess or heat of alcohol, in fact this 2018 delivers a performance that would rival the best from either Burgundy or Bordeaux for elegance, presence and complexity, while still be a soulful and ultra pleasure filled wine. Influenced by its terroir in the des Dentelles de Montmirail, the Domaine Saint-Damien, named for the Christian martyr, has vines set in the rocky hillsides on marls, a mix of limestone and hardened clay soils in terraced vineyards that get plenty of warm sunshine through the days and high elevation coolness at night that allows for perfect ripening of the grapes, which include mainly Grenache of course as well as Mourvedre, Cinsault and Syrah. This wine is beautifully proportioned and divinely textural revealing succulent layers of black raspberry, plum, pomegranate and a deep sense of creme de cassis along with violets, peppercorns, dried herbs, a hint of baked earth, cedar and anise accents that dance on the full bodied palate. This is riveting stuff that is surprisingly well integrated at this point, which makes it drink stylishly and with subtle rustic notes and this Gigondas should prove to be a stunning age worthy wine with its velvet covered muscles and underlying structure, depth and energy.

The Domaine Saint-Damien La Louisiane cuvée, comes from a special set of small parcels or a micro Lieu-Dit, set on the classic soils with some alluvial red stones, was crafted using 80% Grenache that was planted in 1942, 15% Mourvèdre planted in 1977, plus a tiny amount of Cinsault planted back in1951 and some Syrah as well, all 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 for a wine of richness and transparency and this 2018 is all that and more. Saint-Damien does a few unique bottlings, like this one and their famous Les Souteyrades, as well as a savvy old vine Cotes du Rhone, a cuvee Classique, a wine to stock up on, and now a Gigondas Rosé, a recently added treat to this awesome lineup. I have been highlighting the greatness of Gigondas for a long, long time, but in recent years the quality has skyrocketed here and this is a place to find some of the most desirable Rhone collectables, in particular these Saint-Damien offerings, 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, to name a few that has produced profound wines in current vintages, especially in the years from 2014 to now and in fact I hear 2019 and 2020 were great and I look forward to tasting those. These Gigondas wines give so much and ask very little, they are stunning wines for almost any occasion, both relaxed and or in a more serious setting, going sublimely with fancy or simply rustic cuisines, I even enjoy them with sheep cheeses and or pasta dishes as well, such is their flexibility and charm. Again, I really am taken with this 2018 Saint-Damien and the mineral tone it has, as well as the opulent mouth feel and its lively pop of spice and lingering kirsch note, don’t pass up a chance to try this opaque purple/garnet hued and top notch Gigondas!
($40 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

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