DOMAINE SANTA DUC, Gigondas
Domaine Santa Duc was founded in 1874 and Yves Gras is the 4th generation of winegrower at the estate. The name comes from Grand-Duc, the largest European owl who lives and sings during the night in the area, in provencal it translates as Canta Duc, which in time became Santa Duc.
Yves, who produces some of the most sought-after wines in the region, owns 23 ha in Gigondas, Rasteau, Cairanne and Côtes du Rhone appellations. The area is known as the garrigue, an arid, rocky section of vineyards that run north and south mid-slope between the Ouvéze and the Rhône Rivers. The roasted, dry soils are decomposed rock and the area is characterized by wild herbs, sage and cedar.
Yves’ style of viticulture has always been organic, with very low yields, hand-harvesting, use of native yeasts only and no filtration. However Yves went for the full certification which he obtained in 2012.
“It has been interesting to observe the evolution of winemaking style at this address over the past 20 years. While the premise has always been top-quality fruit from fine-tuned viticulture and moderate yields, ideas about ripeness, methods of extraction and aging have changed. I expect the modern, multilevel tower that serves mainly to receive guests must have turned a few heads when it was first built, but now it is just emblematic of the forward-thinking employed by proprietor Yves Gras and his well-traveled son, Benjamin.
The winery acquired its first amphorae in 2014, and Yves told me he expects that amphora-fermented and aged lots will account for 10% of each blend for 2017. Rather than pure power, the father and son are looking for more balance and freshness in the wines, and they like that the amphorae are “very neutral.” On the warm plateau, where the winery and many of the estate’s vines are located, Mourvèdre is becoming more important in the finished wines. Ben said, “It’s a good tool against global warming.
Gigondas-based Yves Gras has quietly grown his holdings in Châteauneuf du Pape to six hectares, from which he’s producing four separate cuvées. I’m sure it will hurt some feelings to say an outsider like Gras is producing some of the most compelling examples of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but keep in mind these are generally tiny-production gems and not easy to track down”
Joe Czerwinski –@RobertParker.com October 2017
“Since he took over the estate in 1985, my father Yves decided to go for organic farming, a long time before it became popular. We have always felt connected to the terroir and thus preserve it. The introduction of biodynamic agriculture is just another logical step in our work to revive the ecosystem of our soils, but also to strengthen the immune system of the plants. The vines learn to cope with parasites and diseases, rather than relying on molecules and pharmaceuticals. The secret of great wines lies in the soil. And vines that stand in line with their terroir produce balanced grapes and harmonious wine. In the cellar, we hardly need to intervene.” Benjamin Gras
Les Plans is a blend of Grenache (50%), Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, it comes from grapes planted in Côtes du Rhone vineyards but has lost the right to the appellation controlee because of the Merlot and Cabernet found in its blend. This is an authentic, full-flavoured Southern Rhone wine, a touch rustic, but with real power and a certain touch of finesse.
“If you like the taste of Châteauneuf du Pape but not the prices, then look no further than this little beauty. Earthy sweet fruit combines with a fresh trickle of acid to deliver up an impressively tasty and lengthy mouthful… Punches way above its weight” – RAYMOND BLAKE, Food and Wine