The acknowledged leader in Gigondas is Château de St.-Cosme, but if there were another estate that could give it a run for its money, it would be Domaines des Bosquets. Since taking over in 2007, Julien Bréchet has been experimenting with, tweaking and refining this estate's wines. He produced his first classic-quality (95 points or better on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale) wines in the 2015 vintage, and has followed that up with an equally, if not better, set of wines in 2016.
The 2016 Domaine des Bosquets Gigondas is the backbone of the portfolio for this 79-acre estate (64 acres in Gigondas). Due to the coulure that hampered Grenache yields in the vintage, the blend is just 45 percent Grenache, along with 35 Syrah and the rest Mourvèdre and Cinsault. It has gorgeous mouthfilling blackberry and fig compote flavors, laced with roasted apple wood and warm anise notes and backed by a riveting graphite spine on the finish.
The 2016 Gigondas Le Plateau is a new bottling in the lineup, a blend of the estate's oldest Mourvèdre vines along with 10 percent Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Clairette. It shows an intense raspberry pâte de fruit core, along with a light apple wood hint and more overt garrigue and leather notes. It shows a gutsy edge, with ample grip, to be expected from a young Mourvèdre, but it stays refined overall, with echoes of a Tempier Bandol flashing through.
The 2016 Gigondas Le Lieu Dit is a pure Grenache bottling from vines situated on sandy soils. Consequently, it shows a very silky and stylish texture, while ripe and thoroughly embedded acidity that lets a long beam of anise-infused boysenberry and plum fruit glide along seductively. It's this wine that captures the house style the most for me, with its combination of silky but persistent grip and very alluring fruit. And while the fruit puts on a beautiful show, these are not top-heavy or overly hedonistic wines.
"I don't want overripe," Bréchet says flatly. "Balance and elegance and minerality are important to me. But I won't pick underripe just to get freshness. I try to pick for purity."
The 2016 Gigondas La Colline is the yin to the Lieu Dit's yang: Both wines are pure Grenache, vinified the same time, aged the same way and even bottled on the same date. Yet while Le Lieu Dit is from vines on sandy soil, La Colline is from vines on blue marl. That terroir delivers a wine with more noticeable grip from the start, but no less focus to açaí berry and fig fruit flavors that are alluring in feel, streaked with licorice root and mesquite hints. It's a dense and well-built wine, but doesn't come off as heavy or brutish by any stretch.
The last wine tasted is also new to the lineup this year, though as with the Le Plateau bottling, Bréchet is only planning to make it in years when it doesn't draw from the quality of the main Gigondas bottling. That's because the 2016 Gigondas Les Routes is an all-Syrah bottling sourced from 25-year-old Syrah vines in a parcel of sand and limestone that runs along the main road below the town itself. The vines were propagated from cuttings at Château de Fonsalette (which was propagated from cuttings belonging to Jean-Louis Chave). Not surprisingly, the wines shows a bright bay and lavender thread through it, with a sauvage hint as well amid the dense, rich core of fig paste. It's youthfully tight, with flashes of chestnut and Turkish coffee on the finish.
For those surprised there can be an all-Syrah cuvée from Gigondas, you are not alone—it is a rarity. And technically, it's not all Syrah. By AOC rule, Gigondas must be a blend, but one single grape of another permitted variety (Grenache, Cinsault or Mourvèdre, for example) dropped into the fermenting vat is all that's needed to satisfy the regulation.