2017 Domaine Giraud, Cotes du Rhone “Les Sables d’Arène” Rhone Valley, France.
The old vine Grenache, Domaine Giraud Les Sables d’Arène Cotes du Rhone, from vines planted in the Lirac zone back in 1950 is a delicious and thoroughly entertaining Rhone red that shows off its warm vintage concentration and depth of dark flavors. Domaine Giraud, famous for outstanding Chateauneuf du Pape, farms their plots to organic methods and the vines which are grown on limestone and clay overlaid by a thick layer of sand and this Cotes du Rhone takes on the more serious nature of top wines, but at a great price. The 2017 delivers loads of ripe fruits with a full bodied palate of black raspberry, strawberry, plum and creme de cassis bursting from glass along with hints of earth, peppery spices, crushed stone, anise and dried lavender. Because of the Lirac AOC rules, which don’t allow single varietal wines to be included, this pure Grenache has to be label humbly as a Cotes du Rhone, though from 2018 on Giraud now includes Mourvedre and Syrah to get the more prestigious Lirac AOC on the label, so I’m glad I got some of this vintage to try first, especially at the price I found it. Domaine Giraud is a fairly young estate by regional standards, it was established in 1974 by Pierre and Mireille Giraud, though Pierre, who founded the Domaine comes from a long line of vignerons, and is a sixth-generation winegrower in Chateauneuf who has grown the holdings to include some amazing parcels in this distinct terroir. The Cotes du Rhone certainly looks the part with its purple/garnet color and opulent Grenache character, I am more than happy with my purchase here, this is exciting stuff.

There’s a lot to like about this Cotes du Rhone and it definitely got even better with food and air time with a longer finish emerging with lingering floral tones and kirsch notes filling out this little Rhone, it was perfect with a rustic Pizza with red onions and wild mushrooms. Domaine Giraud made their Les Sables d’Arène using 100% hand harvested grapes, all of which in 2017 were the Vieilles Vignes (old vine) Grenache as mentioned, and for this cuvee, all the grapes were de-stemmed with primary fermentation in concrete tanks. After that, two thirds of the Cotes du Rhone was aged for 6 months in cement vats, with one third being raised in neutral French oak demi-muids, which adds some roundness to the texture. Imported by Eric Solomon and European Cellars, this special cuvee Les Sables d’Arène is well crafted by Marie (the family’s winemaker) & François Giraud, who have the legendary Philippe Cambie as a consultant, and it is a teaser wine, giving you a glimpse of what their awesome Chateauneuf(s) have in store for you, putting in a nice and studied performance at a reasonable price. With market conditions and being near the end of vintage, there are even bigger discounts to had on this 2017 version, so search them out, it makes this quality bottling an even better deal! For a step up, but still reasonable, I also high recommend searching out the Domaine Giraud Châteauneuf-du-Pape Tradition, also mostly all Grenache, coming from fabulous selected vineyard plots.
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

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