The last time I visited with Marie and Francois Giraud here at their Châteauneuf estate, I put the sister of this dynamic team of siblings on video, discussing her 1960 Saint Charmond tractor. For revenge, this time around, Marie and Francois put me on the tractor. Let's just say trying to steer that beast gave me new perspective into how hard they work ….
I have already reviewed the Domaine Giraud 2016s in official blind tastings (all three of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape red bottlings earned classic ratings), so today we ran through the '17s.
2017 was a difficult vintage in terms of managing the vineyards, but not in terms of quality. The season started with severe coulure (shatter) resulting in dramatically lowered yields. A spate of hail hit the area, further reducing the crop in some spots. Then, from May 11 through Nov. 11, not a drop of rain fell. If any wine region in the world were equipped to handle real dry farming to that extent, it would be the old vines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape (and perhaps Australia's Barossa Valley). Producing very small berries, combined with a reduced crop, the vines avoided any maturity blockage during the drought. There wasn't much juice, but what there was was very, very good. The wines are tannic—skin-to-juice ratio has an effect—but they are ripe and focused.
"We had impeccable conditions during the season and harvest," says Marie. "But very, very little juice."
"Yields were just [1.1 tons per acre]," says François. "But the vine was never stressed because the crop load was so low. The leaves never turned yellow. In that regard, it was easier than '16, for the vines …. Not for us!"
The 2017 Domaine Giraud Côtes du Rhône shows the vintage's style—tightly focused, with currant, plum and raspberry fruit notes carried by a vivid streak of licorice and backed by a bit more grip than you might expect from a Côtes du Rhône.
The 2017 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Tradition offers an intense raspberry pâte de fruit core, with alluring incense and black tea notes that give it some elegance. The tannins are prevalent throughout, but the impression is silky and pure.
The 2017 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Gallimardes bottlings is gorgeous, all silk and velvet in feel, with dark plum and anise notes coursing along the tannic spine. It's clearly structured yet maintains a gorgeous mouthfeel all along.
The 2017 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Grenaches de Pierre is brighter in profile than the Gallimardes, with more spice and lift, adding a sparkle to the raspberry and damson plum coulis flavors. It shows a racy mineral edge on the finish, a flash of shiso leaf, and comes off as very, very long and refined.
I generally prefer to let my reviews on wines stand as my opinion on the efforts of a winemaker and/or owner. In this case though, I offer this addendum, as I have been visiting with the Girauds for over a decade now: These are special wines, emblematic of the recent generational shift in Châteuneuf-du-Pape. They are seductive wines that are also meant to age, and offer a beautiful expression of their terroir. And they are made by special people.