CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: Santa Duc draws arc of splendor with old-vines Gigondas
By Lawrence B. Johnson
To glimpse the poor, stony soil is to wonder how it could ever produce the grapes that Domaine Santa Duc in turn translates into some of the most seductive wine in the Southern Rhône Valley appellation of Gigondas. But the proof was there in a palate-pleasing, indeed eye-opening vertical sampler of Santa Duc’s single-vineyard, old-vine Gigondas Prestige des Hautes Garrigues.
Domaine Santa Duc prides itself on creating superb Gigondas from what might fairly be described as defiant clay soil. And the three vintages tasted with friends – 2005, 2007 and 2010 – brought unanimous expressions of enthusiasm that differed essentially over the question of which of these dark, robust and engaging wines elicited the greatest personal pleasure.
Gigondas is one of four small towns in the Southern Rhône district whose distinctive wines have separated themselves in quality from the general regional appellation of Côtes-du-Rhône – and thus earned individual appellation status. Like the wines of prestigious Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a short distance to the southwest, most expressions of Gigondas are predominantly Grenache: typically, a blend of 65 percent Grenache with 35 percent Mourvèdre. The wines tend to be inky in hue and floral on the nose with flavors of dark fruit, gamy meats, smoke and pepper.
Perhaps the most striking feature of the three sampled vintages of Santa Duc’s Hautes Garrigues was their consistency. From oldest at 10 years to youngest at five, the wines displayed deep color and appealing aromas across a spectrum: succulent dried fruits in the oldest to opulent freshness in the youngest. All of them offered complex, inviting flavor profiles and solid structural integrity. Yet each also possessed its singular magic.
- Tobacco and plum flavors dominated the 2005 Santa Duc Hautes Garrigues ($30), which also showed the pronounced spice and traces of blueberry that connected all three vintages. The earthy dried fruit lent the 2005 an arresting profundity. And in the glass, this vibrant wine only grew more engaging as the evening progressed – a clear indication that it still has years of evolution ahead of it in the bottle.
- The 2007 Hautes Garrigues ($60) provided an intriguing middle perspective in this sequence of finely crafted Gigondas: generous in its delicious dark fruit even if, shoulder to shoulder, it delivered neither the grandeur of the 2010 nor the weathered charm of the 2005. Yet this is lovely wine with the potential for splendorous flowering over time. Some in our group even found the 2007 to be the most rewarding of the three.
- Majestic is the word that leaps to mind to sum up Santa Duc’s 2010 Hautes Garrigues. Despite its relative youth, it already displays the richness, amplitude and complexity expected in a well-made wine several years from vintage. Ripe, bracing tannins and an excellent acid frame promise only good things from extended aging in the cellar. The 2010 is also the most expensive of the Santa Duc threesome – $70, an ambitious price that pushes this Gigondas into competition with Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Bold aspiration, indeed.
Contact Lawrence B. Johnson at email@example.com.