An Insider's Rhône Red

Domaine Gramenon Côtes du Rhône Ceps Centenaires La Mémé 2006
James Molesworth
Posted: January 26, 2011

Thursday is date night so, after catching an early movie with Nancy, we stopped in at Bar Boulud for a light bite and good bottle of wine. Sommelier Michael Madrigale had just gotten in a few new Rhônes (he knows I like them), including some Jamet Côte-Rôtie, as well as this Côtes du Rhône bottling.

Gramenon is a small, insider domaine. Its importer, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant only brings in about 900 cases a year—no more than 20 percent of the domaine's entire production—and that's spread over several cuvées. Michèle Aubèry-Laurent and her son Maxime now farm the estate, working their 26 hectares of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Clairette and Viognier biodynamically, and using minimal sulfur during the vinification.

This cuvée is sourced from the domaine's oldest Grenache vines, some of which are 120 years old. Like many Grenache bottlings, it starts with airy, perfumy cherry and herb notes, but steadily gains flesh and depth in the glass, turning to cassis and blackberry, with long, silky tannins. Sanguine and iron notes flash through, while the finish picks up notes of animal fur and singed iron. Madrigale dug it, as did Nancy. While I loved the aromas and texture, I could see the slight animal note as not appealing to everyone. Nonetheless, style preferences are one thing, but quality is another. As an example of its type—an unadorned, mineral-driven, old-school Rhône—I rated it 91 points, non-blind.

WineSpectator.com members: Get scores and tasting notes for recently rated Top Values among Rhône reds.

• Plus, learn more about Living Without Sulfur, in our profile of another Rhône producer.

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