Joe Czerwinski - 31/10/2018
About this WINE
Domaine Montirius is one of the stars of the appellation, and deservedly so, judged by the care afforded to its wines by Christine and Eric Saurel. They represent the fifth generation to work this 57 hectare domaine in the heart of Vacqueyras and their property, now farmed entirely by biodynamic principles.
Labour-intensive and rigorous, low yielding old vines on optimal soil provide the perfect raw materials, and a careful three week maceration allows the full expression of the terroir. Their patient methodology is rewarded with superb expressions of terroir, described by Christine as `vins lumineux'. Here you can find their village Vacqueyras, as well as the stunningly opulent Clos Montirius.
The Saurels are a charming and gentle couple; their wine, however, is powerful and regal. One of the rare examples where the wine’s personality does not reflect that of those who make it!
Gigondas has been renowned for the quality of its wines since Roman times, although it was not really until it was classified as a Côtes du Rhône Villages in 1966 that it began to realise its potential. It achieved AC status in 1971 and today produces some of the finest, most underrated and under-priced wines in the Rhône valley; although, for the last two of these at least, probably not for much longer.
Gigondas' 1,200-hectare of rugged vineyards are located east of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, beneath the famous mountains of Dentelles de Montmirail. Gigondas produces sumptuous, plummy reds with a good structure and a sprinkle of pepper. It is similar to (if a touch less slick than) good Châteauneuf-du-Pape which, at its best, it can challenge and even surpass.
Made with a maximum of 80 percent Grenache, combined with at least 15 percent Syrah and/or Mourvèdre, the rest can be made of any of the varieties authorized for Côtes du Rhône – apart from Carignan. The wines can normally be broached after two to three years, while the best repay ageing for 10 years or more. The region also produces dry, Grenache-dominated rosés which are good but can sometimes lack a little vitality.
Southern Rhône Blend
The vast majority of wines from the Southern Rhône are blends. There are 5 main black varieties, although others are used and the most famous wine of the region, Châteauneuf du Pape, can be made from as many as 13 different varieties. Grenache is the most important grape in the southern Rhône - it contributes alcohol, warmth and gentle juicy fruit and is an ideal base wine in the blend. Plantings of Syrah in the southern Rhône have risen dramatically in the last decade and it is an increasingly important component in blends. It rarely attains the heights that it does in the North but adds colour, backbone, tannins and soft ripe fruit to the blend.
The much-maligned Carignan has been on the retreat recently but is still included in many blends - the best old vines can add colour, body and spicy fruits. Cinsault is also backtracking but, if yields are restricted, can produce moderately well-coloured wines adding pleasant-light fruit to red and rosé blends. Finally, Mourvèdre, a grape from Bandol on the Mediterranean coast, has recently become an increasingly significant component of Southern Rhône blends - it often struggles to ripen fully but can add acidity, ripe spicy berry fruits and hints of tobacco to blends.