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Where Eagles Dare

Pierre Amadieu has vines with a view in Gigondas, and wines to match
Photo by: James Molesworth
The Amadieu Gigondas Pas de l'Aigle cuvée is sourced from these vines in the shadow of Eagle's Pass in the Dentelles.

Posted: Jul 13, 2017 5:24pm ET

Pierre Amadieu's tasting room sits prominently on the road up into Gigondas. Fitting, since this family-owned estate is synonymous with Gigondas. An Amadieu planted the first few acres of vines around Gigondas in 1929. And in the mid-'50s and early '60s, Pierre's grandfather planted the bulk of the estate, tucked up on terraces against the Dentelles. You can read additional background from my 2010 visit here.

Today the Amadieu estate is 338 acres, encompassing more than 10 percent of the appellation. Along with a négociant operation, the Amadieu label ends up on 50,000 cases of wine each year, including wines from across the Southern Rhône. But Gigondas remains its heart.

These are traditionally made wines, fermented in vat, aged in foudre for the most part, and offering pure beams of fruit lined with garrigue and mineral accents.

The three Gigondas bottlings start with the 2016 Gigondas Romane Machotte, an 80/20 blend of Grenache and Syrah aged 60 percent in foudre and the rest in used barrels for one year. Sourced from vines at 1,300 feet elevation and with a due north exposure, the wine offers a beam of cassis, juicy energy and alluring violet and mineral notes through the finish. If you need an introduction to Gigondas, this is as good as any, as it shows a subtle tug of earth, a mix of red and black fruit flavors and a sense of perfume throughout.

The 2016 Gigondas Domaine Grand Romane is its usual 65/20/15 blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah. Also aged 60 percent in foudre, this is the one wine here that sees a touch of new oak, with a portion of the remaining 40 percent aged in new barrels for 18 months. The result is a tighter, tauter feel at this early stage (all of the '16s were sampled as basically the final blend of the still-to-be-bottled wines), showing more muscle and heft. The fruit profile keeps to cassis, with an additional bramble edge through the grippy finish while hints of dried lavender and bay flash through.

Quietly among the top wines of the appellation is the 2016 Gigondas Pas de l'Aigle, a cuvée not made in every year (when it is skipped, the fruit goes into the Grand Romane bottling). The vines are rare, situated on blue marl rather than the more typical limestone soils, and afforded a dramatic view of the eagle's pass (a dip in the Dentelles that stand above the vines). The wine is a 90/10 blend of Grenache and Syrah aged two years in foudre. The shift in makeup gives it a brighter fruit profile, with alluring kirsch and raspberry notes streaming through, while light spice and violet accents add range. There's a mouthwatering iron edge through the finish.

Amadieu underlined his point by opening bottles of the 2006, '07, '09, '10, '11, '12 and '13 Pas de l'Aigle. The '06 and '07 showed mulled fruit, roasted juniper and ample tar and charcoal accents, with the wine fully into its secondary phase. But with the '09 and '11, a sappy, fresh kirsch core remained, and they seemed destined for a longer life. The '10 is a rock star, brimming with truffle, ganache, tar and blackberry notes. The '12 and '13 are still primal, with racy fruit and acidity flecked with the lavender, bay and iron notes that should blossom with more time. All that and it retails for around $40 (the other two cuvées are around $30).

I'm guessing it's because the vines like the view.

Follow James Molesworth on Twitter, at twitter.com/jmolesworth1, and Instagram, at instagram.com/jmolesworth1.

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