My eldest son Alfred turned 20 this week and we marked the occasion and a visit home with a bottle of Gigondas 1998 from Domaine Saint Gayan. Fortunately, Alfred was born in great Rhône vintage and I was able to cellar quite a few wines for our mutual future enjoyment. The Gigondas cost £10.95 a bottle when we released it in 2001 and we now charge £18.50 for the current 2013 vintage. Unlike its near neighbour Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas doesn't greatly appreciate in value with maturity, which is strange as it relishes bottle age in good vintages. It is therefore a wine to lay down for one's own gratification rather than as an investment but the bottle we sampled made a strong case for doing so. In perfect condition after 17 years in our cellars it still had plenty of vim and vigour its' only obvious concessions to age being a slightly faded robe and a little sediment. With a bouquet of stewed garrigue berries with spicy undertones and a beautifully smooth, rounded palate of autumnal fruit and wild herbs with tannins that have sweetened and softened with age it was a wine that drank beautifully from the off and should continue to do so for another decade.
No lesser personage than Robert Parker reviewed the wine back in October 1999 averring that it: 'exhibits a sweet, mature fruit bouquet of blackberries, cherry liqueur, pepper, and spice' and was 'medium to full-bodied, with an excellent mid-palate, and no hard edges' concluding that it should 'drink well during its first 10-12 years of life'.
I have always averred that Grenache can age well, if cellared well, and I wouldn't have kept this for so long if I wasn't confident it could go the distance. Given that the bottles are holding up so well larger formats should be excellent. This bodes well for Alfred's 21st next year and subsequent special occasions. Quite when to broach a bespoke double magnum of Alain Graillot's Crozes-Hermitage 'La Guiraude' 1998 is another question.
My conclusion is that nothing beats great wine in great company. The wines don't have to be grand or the settings luxurious but prior planning and patience can pay great dividends. It would be an oversight of me not to highlight the fact that Yapp Brothers' storage conditions and terms are, respectively, excellent and competitive.