Traditional Gigondas is made in foudres--large, old barrels that have become neutral in terms of the aromas and flavors they impart. This "cuvee boisee" was one of the early experiments in the use of new oak, inspired undoubtedly by American importers and critics. Better known examples are Brusset's Les Haut de Montmirail and Domaine les Goubert's Cuvee Florence. At the time, I was intrigued by these experiments but didn't buy many because they were more expensive than the traditional cuvees and I didn't like the oak-influenced aromas and flavors. My suspicion was that they would not age well, and I think this wine is a prime example.
Medium deep color with some browning and a good deal of sediment. A note of oxidation is apparent from the first sniff along with more positive smells of toffee and spicy dried fruit. On the palate, though, there are some deep, haunting flavors that make it worth drinking. It's actually quite enjoyable on the first night. On the second, it becomes sweeter and more Port-like while the oxidation becomes more apparent.
Admittedly, 21 years is a long time to age any Gigondas, but I have recently had a 1988 Cayron and 1989 Saint Gayan that were showing much better. If anyone has a tasting note from the 1990 regular cuvee of Grand-Romane, I would be highly intrigued. For now, though, I will continue to avoid the wood cuvees.