2019 Domaine Santa Duc, Gigondas, Aux Lieux-Dits, Rhône Valley, France.
What a thrill to behold in the glass, with a deep purple/crimson color and a mix of earth, spice and floral notes on the bouquet, making this Gigondas a brilliant wine, made by Domaine Santa Duc, one of the old world classics, an estate that was originally founded back in 1874, and still considered, as I’ve mentioned before, a vocal point of great southern Rhônes. This vigorous 2019 Aux Lieux-Dits is a full bodied version with a powerful ripe palate of boysenberry, black plum, currant and cherry fruits, all accented by peppery spices, dried sage, tobacco leaf, warm tiles, a touch of leather, cedar, wild lavender and anise. This vintage is starting to plush out and soften, but still has quite a grip and rustic tannin, so best to enjoy this one with a robust meal and plenty of decanting to fully reveal the charms here, it’s a Southern Rhône that will reward the patient and in fact I had a 1996 version of Santa Duc Gigondas recently and it was glorious, so don’t be afraid to put a few in the long term cellar. The wines here at Domaine Santa Duc are old school efforts coming from special massale selections of mostly Grenache, but with Mourvèdre, Syrah and Cinsault as well that goes into these 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 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 vattingand 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 Gigondas, and the Châteauneuf du Pape, 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. Made usually with about 75% Grenache Noir, 10% Syrah, 13% Mourvèdre and 2% Cinsault, 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 gain tremendous sex appeal and character with some aging, I highly recommend Santa Duc.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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