Some of the best stories draw you in quietly, connecting on a level that seeps through the surface and flows to deeper wells. You are taken soundly. There are no sharp hooks or sudden twists. That’s how I feel about “Les Souteyrades” from Domaine Saint-Damien. Located in Gigondas, Saint-Damien is the John Williams (the author, not the composer) of the wine world, minus the depressing themes. It guides you forth with that unfaltering hand that promises to deliver Truth. It wears no pretense, because it needs none.
The label is unassuming in a classic French manner, displaying the domain’s namesake in all his paternal glory. The mustard yellow tone and Olde English font appear antiquated during an era of extreme branding: modern minimalist or cannonball loud. But slip inside the cover and you’ll find its contents are rich and rewarding in that intoxicating way for which I love wine. No frills. No megaphone. Instead, classically produced French wine that absorbs by means of nuance and harmony.
Named after the patron saint of doctors, Domaine Saint-Damien sits on a clay and limestone plateau less than ten miles northeast of Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe, in the Southern Rhône Valley. Joël and Amie represent the fourth generation of Saurels to farm the vineyards, and they’re the first to vinify and sell their own wine (previous generations sold the grapes to négociants). As neither Joël nor Amie had experience in the cellar, they hired a consultant named Philippe Cambie to help guide the vinification process. His modern, minimalist approach, combined with the Saurels' ripe fruit, results in rich, velvety wine.
The lieu-dit “Les Souteyrades” is comprised of grenache vines planted in 1948 and mourvèdre vines planted in 1977. Vinification with maceration lasts 6-8 weeks in concrete vats, and then the wine is aged for 12 months in 50hL oak foudres. Bottled without fining or filtration. “Les Souteyrades” is a blend of 80% grenache and 20% mourvèdre.
This wine is ready to drink now and will show sappy, bright red fruit backed by fine, integrated tannins. Let the wine rest, and the fruit will mature and drop back as the tannins evolve and continue to integrate, revealing secondary nuance such as garrigue and lavender. Its window of drinkability will remain open until 2024.
Domaine Saint-Damien Les Souteyrades
Gigondas, Rhône Valley, France