Spice- and smoke-accented red berries, cola and a hint of licorice on the deeply perfumed nose. Supple and broad in the mouth, offering cherry liqueur and black raspberry flavors that gain lift and definition from a spine of zesty minerality. Picks up a sexy floral quality on the impressively persistent finish, which is shaped by supple, slow-building tannins.
Domaine Saint Damien is a 54-acre estate in Gigondas, in the heart of the Rhone Valley. Though the Saurel family has been involved with grape growing and winemaking in the Rhone Valley for seven generations, the estate is now run by Joel Saurel and his wife Amie, who are winning wide-spread praise for their winemaking. Robert M. Parker Jr. wrote in 2009 that Joel Saurel “has moved this estate alongside the appellation’s two superstars, Domaine Santa Duc and Chateau SaintCosme.” The estate’s unfined, unfiltered Gigondas are generally about 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre. Since early 2009 the estate has used only organic farming methods. Nearly 9,000 cases of wine are produced annually.
The Southern Rhône Valley wine region extends from Orange in the north through the communes Lirac and Tavel in the southwest. The French call the region Côtes du Rhône Méridionales and it includes some of the best known appellations in France, such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas. The climate and landscape of the Southern Rhone differ significantly from the Northern Rhone. There are hot, often windy Mediterranean appellations near Nimes and the south, and higher altitude, relatively cool appellations such as Côtes du Ventoux to the east. Understanding the region can be confusing given that there are thirteen appellations and sixteen red and white grapes allowed for wines with appellation status. Syrah is grown here, but it is much less important than in the north. Grenache is the prominent red grape, though most red wines are blends of at least four varietals. Other commonly used red grapes are Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Muscardin. Counoise, Terret Noir, Vaccarèse and Syrah are also permitted. The primary white grapes are Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Bourboulenc, though Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne are permitted, as are Picpoul and Picardin. Of note is the Côtes du Rhone Villages AOC, which is only in the Southern Rhone. Though Côtes du Rhône AOC wine is made in both the north and south, the Villages appellation has stricter requirements for winemaking and is generally considered higher quality than simple Côtes du Rhône. Robert M. Parker Jr. has written that “There is a vast amount of enjoyment to be discovered in the southern Rhône…for these are some of the most sumptuous and pleasure-giving wines produced in the world.”