2019 Domaine Jérôme Gradassi, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge, Rhone Valley, France.
Gradassi’s latest Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge is a youthful, primary and grapey Grenache based effort that is firmly tight, savory and stony to start, but after opening up it is a fantastic bottle, deep in inky color and the depth of fruit is impressive, it highlights the rustic style with lots of whole bunch character, but rounds out nicely with a concentrated mouth feel and a full bodied palate of dark berry fruit, peony, spice and a sultry earthiness that balances everything so well here. This vintage looks to be one the best I’ve tried and I’m glad I was able to get a few bottles, especially has limited it is and I look forward to cellaring them another 3 to five years. Still a baby and ultra fresh the 2019 kicks things off with brambly boysenberry, juicy concord, pomegranate and black currant fruit that is accented by black licorice, wild flowers, sagey lavender, chalky saline, a touch of woodsy chanterelles and lingering fig, umami and kirsch. Maybe the smallest producer in the whole Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC, France’s first appellation, Jérôme’s Chateauneuf ages just over 10 months, using cement and ancient oak casks, and is one of freshest you’ll find with a dry savory edginess and with stem fleshiness and tension, it’s a wine I’ve been a fan of since it was first available in the States, along with his Blanc, uniquely made from Clairette Rose, a Gris like varietal, super rare, closely related to more common Clairette Blanche.

As I’ve mentioned here in my prior reviews, this is one of my favorite small producers in the Rhone, I love these wines and am so glad tiny domaines can exist here in this historic region and make it doing humble and rustic offerings. Jérôme Gradassi is the ex chef of the Michelin starred restaurant, the “L’Isle Sonnant” in Avignon, which, after burning out, he sold in 2003 to take over a tiny Chateauneuf parcel of vines that was left to him by his grandfather. After making a few vintages in his late grandfather’s tiny house and basement cellar, a place so small the grapes were shoveled through a window and the juice had to be brought up in hand pulled buckets to barrel, a process that sometimes took a few days to manage, Gradassi is now in his brother’s ex-winery Domaine du Remparts, re-named Domaine Jérôme Gradassi. His micro production Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge is roughly about 75-80% Old Vine Grenache Noir and 20-25% Mourvèdre, fermented in cement vats and stainless and then aged in older barriques, using native yeasts and lots of whole cluster, making for a spicy/earthy rustic wine with a nod to old school traditions, which I adore in Chateauneuf. Farmed with holistic practices on classic limestone, riverbed and clay soils, the Gradassi Chateauneuf vines are planted with about 75% Grenache and 25% Mourvedre. His property, according to Domaine, is divided into 6 parcels located in the lieut-dits of Palastor, Bois Dauphin, and Cabriere, all in the cooler north of the AOC, shows a vivid lively form and balance, less dense and less hedonistic than the more modern styles. Thanks to Martine’s wines for importing this wine, it is well worth the chase, and this vintage of the Rouge should only get better and better!
($55 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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