Louis Barruol no longer needs an introduction on this blog. I've visited Château de St.-Cosme regularly for several years, so you can reference background information starting with my most recent entry. This remains the reference-point estate for Gigondas, as well as one of the most dynamic estates in all of the Rhône Valley, south or north.
While there is a négociant arm that produces a superb lineup of Northern Rhône wines, this entry focuses on the southern estate wines from Gigondas proper.
Barruol first took me to the vineyards, to show me something he admittedly hadn't yet divulged on any of my prior visits.
"I need to keep you coming back," he joked. "So I make sure there's always something I haven't shown you yet."
A small 2.5-acre parcel of Mourvèdre vines just behind the winery is striking—goblet pruned but extremely close to the ground, resulting in a dramatically taller-than-usual canopy. As I stood there trying to figure out the reason—Mourvèdre ripens late, so increased canopy size and resulting increased sugar production (resulting in easier ripening at higher alcohol) didn't seem to make much sense—Barruol mercifully filled me in.
"The great vineyards and vines I have now are not because of me, but because of my grandfather and father," said Barruol. "The game is to think 20 years ahead. So 14 years ago I saw climate change occurring, and realized I needed vineyards that would be able to handle the change. I had to think about my children."
The increased canopy size, explained Barruol, is to actually purposely throw shade onto the next row, cutting down on the copious sun that the vineyards receive each year.
"So despite the increased canopy, I actually don't get increased sugar production because of the shade. You have to think of the vine like a car: There's power and there's speed. Finding the balance is key. Don't we all like an old car that's been kept well? Well old vines are nice too. But if you want old vines, you have to take care, and think ahead."
The 2013 Côtes du Rhône White Le Poste is the Clairette-only cuvée sourced from vines within the Gigondas AOC. It shows piercing honeysuckle, heather and melon rind notes with lovely purity through the finish. The 2012 Côtes du Rhône Les Deux Albion (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignane and Counoise) is very savory and racy, with steeped blackberry fruit lined with pastis and ganache notes.
"2012 is not a show off like 2010," said Barruol. "It's more classical in style, balanced, fresh and long. It's going to age well. It reminds me of '06."
As always, the Gigondas cuvées are not destemmed ("never" said Barruol firmly), fermented in cement vat and then aged in barrel. The 2012 Gigondas is dense, with blackberry and plum paste notes lined with charcoal and pastis. The 2012 Gigondas Valbelle is intense, with blackberry, fig and ganache notes, letting more tobacco and savory fill in on the finish. The 2012 Gigondas Le Claux is fleshier still, with more blackberry cobbler, anise and lavender notes, and a dense but lush, grip-filled finish.
The 2012 Gigondas Hominis Fides adds mocha and camphor to the mix, along with mesquite and juniper, showing more masculinity as it's broad shouldered and very dense through the finish. The 2012 Gigondas Le Poste is a laser, with blueberry coulis, plum sauce and pastis notes, a backdrop of charcoal and a very long, fine-grained finish that shows terrific energy and tension. It combines both succulent flesh and firm grip while once again offering classic-level quality.