Louis Barruol took over this 15-hectare domain from his father in 1997, and with his '98s will quickly establish himself as one of the stars of the appellation. With his wire-rim glasses and studious mien, Baruel looks like a young professor at the University of Gigondas. The cellar here, in the subbasement of his Gallo-Roman house, features the remnants of a cuverie from the 2nd century. "It was constructed on different levels, even back then, which meant that they could do racking by gravity," says Barruol. Most of Barruol Gigondas vines are in spots he describes as "trop tardive et trop sec," perfect for syrah and grenache but far from ideal for mourvedre ("I don't have one vine of mourvedre,"). He can pick the syrah very late, with the grenache, and ferment the two varieties together, which he says creates important synergy. The harvest here in '98 began in Indian summer conditions at the beginning of October, more than a week after the rains of the equinox. Barruol also has a small negociant business in the north, thus far specializing in Cote-Rotie and Condrieu. (Patrick Lesec Selections, imported by Classic Wine Imports, Boston, MA; The Stacole Company, Inc., Boca Raton, FL; and Michel-Schlumberger Wines Ltd., Healdsburg, CA)

1997 St. Cosme Chateau du St. Cosme Gigondas

Red-ruby. Explosive aromas of cherry, leather, roasted meat and smoky oak; quite exotic for the vintage. Fat and full in the mouth; complicated flavors of black raspberry, smoked meat, gibier and sweet oak. Lovely vinosity and length. Dusty, even tannins won't get in the way of the wine's early drinkability. Doesn't offer the primary fruit and thrust of a top '98, but this is long on personality.


1998 St. Cosme Chateau du St. Cosme Gigondas

Deep red. Aromas of roasted blackberry, tar and spices. Very intensely flavored and complex; concentrated roasted red fruits, leather, game and smoky oak are already expressive and harmonious. Finishes with superb persistence and big, ripe tannins that coat the entire mouth. Again, offers terrific vinosity.


1998 St. Cosme Gigondas Valbelle

Saturated, deep ruby-red. Superripe but vibrant aromas of cassis, black raspberry, smoked meat and licorice, complemented by lush oak tones and a floral nuance. Wonderful sappy sweetness in the mouth yet uncompromisingly dry. Flavor of crystallized dark berries. The very fine tannins coat the entire mouth. Among the standouts of the vintage.


1997 St. Cosme Cote-Rotie

100% petit serine, with no viognier; aged in all new barriques. Dark red. Exotic aromas of blackberry, maple syrup, game, tar and mocha. Lush and sweet on entry, with a peppery nuance. Has rather firm acidity for the vintage, which combines with the oak tannins to give the finish a slightly disjointed, sour quality.


1998 St. Cosme Cote-Rotie

Full red-ruby. Wild aromas of chocolate, leather and meat lifted by a floral element. Penetrating, meaty and sharply delineated; here the tarry oak spice is supported by extract and the wine's mineral spine gives it cut. Very tightly wrapped today yet highly aromatic in the mouth; a much more primary style of wine than the '97, reflecting the very different styles of these two vintages. Finishes with fine tannins and lingering, sappy flavor. This wine went through its malolactic fermentation in barriques in Barruol's cellar.


1998 St. Cosme Condrieu

Bottled in June; 100% vinified in new barriques. Peach skin color. Floral, fresh aromas of apricot, peach, pear and violet. Thick and full but not at all heavy; in fact, this uncompromisingly dry wine is quite fresh and spicy. A fascinating wine, from a small crop harvested quite late.

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