December's issue, out now (as a subscriber, I received my copy before the end of October! I will never understand this) features the results of a tasting of Gigondas 2010/11.
The UK's leading Rhone specialist, John Livingstone-Learmonth, advises that the levels of ripeness in 2010 were excellent whereas there was more unevenness in 2011 which means, of course, caveat emptor (or, at least, buy a wine you either know or from a merchant you trust). He describes 2010 as a "more complete vintage" although the panel certainly does not write off the 2011 vintage at all.
A criticism that was levied against a few of the wines was heavy handed use of oak. When I first got to know Gigondas, it was a time of experimenting with new oak in the top cuvees (started, I believe, at Domaine les Gouberts) and it was fun for a while but Grenache doesn't always react well to the gentle oxidation that inevitably takes place in the barrel and, frankly, if you want an "international" style wine smothered in oak, you are unlikely to be interested in this blog!
It was good to read one of the other tasters, Christian Honorez saying "there is a core of really good producers in Gigondas who are making much better wines than many in Chateauneuf-du-Pape". Obvious, perhaps, but sometimes these things need to be spelled out. One of these is Laurent Brusset, currently at the helm of family estate Domaine Brusset.
I have been tasting and buying (and consuming) wines from this excellent estate along with several others from the village since the mid-1990s with wines dating back to the late 1980s and, whilst it would be only fair to say that from time to time another estate may come up with a marginally better wine, a wine with a Brusset label is quite often the best of the appellation in a given vintage. Moreover, and more important, the Brusset family has proven itself to be the most consistent estate in Gigondas. Even in the disastrous 2002 vintage, their Les Hauts de Montmirail was a lovely wine.
So, what of 2010? This is a vintage that bowled me over in just about every estate I visited - principally those I work with and a handful of others - and it was no exception here. The wines were harder at Domaine Brusset than in other Gigondas and Chateauneuf estates I visited, by which I mean that the structure, in particular the tannins, are less forgiving at this stage than in a vintage such as 2009. There is some good acidity here too. Actually, I can see strong stylistic links between the Rhone and Burgundy in this vintage. Of course, this is actually good news as it means, as with the 2005s, the wines will be able to evolve more gradually than in a more flashy year.
And the wines? My thoughts are already on record so it may be simpler to record the verdict of the Decanter panel:
Les Hauts de Montmirail 2010: "Sleek sweep of dark cherry fruit across the nose, good and pure. Bright, black cherry fruit and winter spices intermingle with smoky oak. Intense with some tar and graphite: complex and multi-layered, with noticeable Syrah." 2015-2029. 90/100
Le Grand Montmirail 2010: "Mineral nose of some depth which has a baked brioche character. Liqueur cherry and coffee flavours add to a palate full of red fruits and fresh acidity." 2015-2029. 85+/100
It's been a while since I tasted HDM (it would be a shame to drink it too young) but I bought some half bottles of LGM for myself (very useful things, half bottles!) and can certainly vouch for this wine. Lovely!