Nearing its 20th birthday, this is about as perfect a Gigondas as anyone could expect--mature and drinking beautifully with no signs of old age. It is a deep, dark color with good brilliance. (For some reason, Gigondas wines are nearly always darker in color than Chateauneufs of the same vintage). It has the perfect combination of Gigondas beauty and power. There are whiffs of sweet spring flowers on the nose along with black and red berries, meat and Provencal herbs. Also some vanilla, although this is an unoaked cuvee. The wine has a big, muscular body but it's also supple, gliding smoothly across the palate and leaving lingering flavors and textures--all ripe and lovely with no hard edges. This is a perfect match for New York strip steak, but it would also be good with grilled Venison.
Now run by Jean-Pierre and Mireille Cartier, Domaine les Goubert is another Southern Rhone estate with a long family history. The 23 hectares of old, gnarled vines have belonged to the Goubert family since 1636, with Augusta Goubert passing the property to her son, Jean-Pierre Cartier. Goubert was the first estate in the region to produce a wine raised in new oak--the Cuvee Florence, named after their daughter. That was the wine I was expecting to buy when I went to the communal tasting room in the Medieval village of Gigondas on a visit to the Southern Rhone in the early 1990s. Robert Parker had given praise and high rankings to the Cuvee Florence (as well as Brusset's oak-aged Gigondas, Les Hauts des Montmirail), and I went to the tasting room with high expectations. When I expressed my interest in these oak-aged wines, French locals there urged me to try the traditional bottlings, which were at least 50 percent cheaper. And, after careful tasting and comparison, I decided they were right. In their youth, the oak-aged Gigondas wines have the stately demeanor of a New World Cabernet, but they lack the power and finesse of a good traditional Gigondas. And my experience is that the international-styled wines do not age as well. My bottles of Les Hauts des Montmirail from 1988 and 1989 tasted a bit oxidized several years ago, while this wine is still youthful.