2018 Moulin de la Gardette, Gigondas “La Cuvee Tradition” Rhone Valley, France.
In recent years I have been drawn to the wines of Gigondas and Vacqueyras for my Grenache geek fix rather than the more expensive Chateauneuf du Pape wines, especially as the quality gap has narrowed to a tiny fine margin in some cases and this 2018 Moulin de la Gardette, a new producer to me, is one that delivers that pleasure and value I am looking for in an authentic Gigondas with a rustic and sultry charming wine that captures the essence of both place and vintage. The dark berry fruited and complex 2018 La Cuvee Tradition has a blast of whole bunch crunchiness and an array of spices, herbs, earth and savory elements to chew along with that core of sweet and ripe fruit in a wine that enjoys freshness of form, more so that what we saw with the 2017s from the southern Rhone and the detailing seems sharper, making it wonderfully easy to enjoy with simple country foods and or sheep cheeses. The domaine Moulin de la Gardette is a fifth generation small family winery nestled on the hillsides of the Montmirail range and make their wines in the classic or old school way with whole cluster, which looks like 100% in this vintage, and native yeast fermentation in cool cement vats with a year or so of aging in large used foudres, all of which allows for a soulful expression of terroir to show up on these full bodied wines. The vines here are at least 50 years old, with some closer to one hundred, and they yield way under the regulations as well with most sitting on good slopes and set on the Dentelles’ mineral rich limestone and clay soils at good elevation that makes for powerful wines that retain a good dose of acidity from the heights cooler breezes and cold nights. Another reason to love Gigondas and Vacqueyras AOC wines is that they can be drunk young and still be aged, for those that are patient and love a more mature wine, in some cases for 20 years.

Moulin de la Gardette took on its current name in 1958 and has been run by Jean-Baptiste Meunier since 1990, a vigneron who has a great respect for nature and history, working with organic methods in the vineyards and who focused on minimal winemaking intervention in his cellars. After looking into the Gardette wines I learned that Jean-Baptiste studied winemaking in the Carcassonne and interesting in Napa Valley as well, along with stints within the southern Rhone, and now tends about 25 acres of vines, which includes mostly, as expected Grenache, along with smaller plots of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault. Meunier makes three wines, this flagship La Cuvee Tradition, his most limited old vine bottling called Ventabren and La Petite Gardette, that is made from Jean-Baptiste’s younger vines. There’s a lot to unravel in this latest release with its deep purple and crimson color inviting you in and a slightly feral note on the nose before opening up in the mouth with layers of boysenberry, wild plum, tangy black currant, pomegranate and a sweet kirsch note, plus a light dusting of pepper, black licorice, a lavender and violet porporri and a pop of stemmy intensity that gives just the right amount of bitter contrast to the fruit density. This Moulin de la Moulin vintage saw the standard blend of 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre and comes in at a weighty and pretty normal 14.5% natural alcohol for a wine of this concentration and impressive taste impact. I’m thrilled with the personality and quality of this Gardette Gigondas and will certainly get more and follow the up coming efforts of Meunier. The 2018 vintage is turning out to be one to stock up on in this part of the Rhone, with bit less hype, there are some stunning wine and great bargains, which this wine represents, especially as a young wine that looks to provide rewarding drinking enjoyment for another 5 to 10 years with ease.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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