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Day one, third visit: Laurent Brusset

Laurent was in the cellars when I arrived at Domaine Brusset's Cairanne home but he soon emerged smiling: pleased with his 2009s, hopeful for his 2010s too. We skipped the whites (the Viognier is sold out in any case) which we tasted together at Easter. As always, these are very good but, as with most estates outside Chateauneuf, it is the reds that shine.

His 2009 Cotes du Rhone "Laurent B" is probably the most hedonistic example of this wine I have encountered. Pure, simple enjoyment: the wine has a sweet Grenache nose which follows through to the palate which is spicy, slightly smokey, deep fruited but medium bodied and not overly tannic. One to enjoy in the near term.

A step up to Cairanne: 2009 CDR Villages Cairanne "Les Travers" seemed slightly muted on the nose compared with the CDR but I have enjoyed several bottles of this at home so know this is not really the case. The palate is silkier with more refined tannins but lots of peppery spice and garrigue herbs with red/black fruits. On this tasting, I would leave it a year or two to come round but previous bottles have been enjoyed. Perhaps it has closed up a little. An excuse to crack open another bottle when I get home.

A long-standing favourite of ours is the prestige Cairanne - we first came across this with the 1997 vintage which was excellent here. No surprises that the 2009 CDR Villages Cairanne "Les Chabriles" is the best so far then. More blackberry Syrah character on the nose and palate and some of the oak (from the Syrah's upbringing) comes through. Plenty going on here - best in another two or three years and over the following five years or so.

Of course, the Brusset's are best known for their Gigondas wines. The first cuvee, sometimes referred to as "Tradition" is 2009 Gigondas "Le Grand Montmirail" (LGM), a blend of 70% Grenache with Cinsault, Mourvedre and Syrah, partly aged (around a quarter) in barrels, the rest in cement. This is refined, elegant, long and complex with massive potential. Bottled in July so it has had some time to settle down and develop in the bottle. A very enjoyable Gigondas and worthy successor to the ever-popular 2007.

The star of the show is, however, the 2009 Gigondas "Les Hauts de Montmirail" (HDM). 50% Grenache, the rest Syrah and Mourvedre in equal parts with these last two aged in a mixture of new and used barrels. More used than in the old days if tasting is anything to go by (I recall a tasting with Daniel Brusset several years ago where he leaped from one barrel to another demonstrating the effect of different woods and different toasts on the wine; recent cuvees have, perhaps, been better and certainly more accessible for the lower use of new oak). A big wine, certainly, but fresh and characterful. Interestingly, Laurent had another bottle which had been open for eight days which showed some of the wine's potential evolution and remarkably little oxidation. A big and long future for this wine.

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