1998 Domaine Brusset – Les Hauts de Montmirail, Gigondas AOC Rouge, Vin des Côtes du Rhône, France.
The absolutely gorgeous and perfectly mature Domaine Brusset Gigondas is one of the year’s best surprises so far, drinking with far more life and clarity than one would expect from a 26 year old country wine, in fact, this is in better shape than many far more expensive Châteauneuf du Pape wines I’ve tried, with beautiful aromatics, lovely dark red fruits, delicate earthiness, dusty stones, dried flowers, briar spices and a hint of beefy sous bois. The pleasure filled and old world styled 1998 Les Hauts de Montmirail Gigondas has a medium bodied and mature palate that is wonderfully rounded and textural at this stage with a seamless layering of boysenberry, brandied cherry, plum, dried red currant and balsamic dipped strawberry fruits, along with autumn leaves, sticky lavender, chalky earth, a faint meaty leathery element, candied but tangy orange peel and a light peppery note. As this remarkably clear garnet/crimson hued Gogondas, made from maybe around 60% Grenache plus a good dose of Mourvèdre and Syrah, opened up in the glass it just got better and better with hints of violets and Mission fig making appearances and the length and lingering fruit were impressive, lifted by a fine cut of acidity. This is a peak performance by Brusset’s Les Hauts de Montmirail, though I can see it going another few years, though there’s no reason on earth to wait, I’m glad I found a few bottles which I plan to open sooner versus later. I’m a huge Rhône fan and Gigondas enthusiast, which I find have a cool toned, with a mineral essence and higher elevation character that I love, which is nicely expressed here, even with the age on it.

The Domaine Brusset was founded just after WWII in 1947 by the late André Brusset (1910-1999), who was followed by his son Daniel, and now run by his grand-son Laurent, that has kept the best of the family traditions, but also added organic certification and focused on true terroir driven wines. The Brusset family grows, as they explain, quite a few noble grape varieties on their 70 hectares, which covers five prestigious appellations in the Côtes du Rhone area, including Gigondas, Cairanne, Rasteau, basic Côtes-du-Rhône and the Ventoux. For their red wines and Rosés, they have Grenache, the main grape obviously, as well as Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Carignan all which feature supporting roles and add complexity. And while the reds make up 90% of the production, the Brusset’s do have some serious white wine, made from Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne and Clairette Blanche. If you were to put two of the Brusset wines on your wish lists, I’d suggest grabbing their top two bottlings, the Cairanne, where the winery itself is based and their fantastic Gigondas, especially this Les Hauts de Montmirail version, as this well aged 1998 shows, it is a rustic charmer and killer value. The Brusset Les Hauts de Montmirail Gigondas, which vines are located just below the great Jurassic calcareous ridge of the famous Dentelles de Montmirail on small terraces with rocky soils over clay and limestone, was 100% de-stemmed and cold macerated with a 30 day pilage on the skins and fermentation in temperature controlled tanks. The grapes are fermented separately and blended after with this Gigondas seeing a combination of vat and wood aging, about 50% each, with some new French oak used, in more recent years, depending on the vintage. I can’t wait to try the current releases, while I covet the couple of 1998s I still have!
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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