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Gigondas, Domaine Raspail-Ay 2016

Red Wine from France - Rhone
Fragrant, grenache-dominated red, ripe and fruity with Provence herbs and sweet spice. Heart-warming fireside red from the Rhône Valley to be enjoyed with, for example, a game pie.
is no longer available
Code: RH53961

Wine characteristics

  • Red Wine
  • Full-bodied
  • Grenache/Garnacha
  • 15% Alcohol
  • No oak influence
  • Now to 2027
  • Cork, natural

Southern Rhône (excluding Chateauneuf)

Producing over 3.5m hl (hectolitres), this is the second biggest region for production of appellation contrôlée wine in France after Bordeaux. Most is red, though production of both white and pink is growing. Some 20 grape varieties are planted in the south though one in particular, Grenache, gives the region as a whole its identity: generosity, body, weight and a definite tendency to making big wines. More than half of the production is of Côtes-du-Rhône with the best sold as Côtes-du-Rhône Villages. Better still are the so-called crus led by Châteauneuf-du-Pape itself.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape: This large area to the north of Avignon makes the best wines of the south. Reds tend to be grenache based with syrah, mourvèdre and counoise also used. Few wines combine immense strength with perfect elegance quite so convincingly. Word of caution: Châteauneuf produces as much wine as the whole of the northern Rhône put together. A third is very good, a third acceptable and the last third,...
Producing over 3.5m hl (hectolitres), this is the second biggest region for production of appellation contrôlée wine in France after Bordeaux. Most is red, though production of both white and pink is growing. Some 20 grape varieties are planted in the south though one in particular, Grenache, gives the region as a whole its identity: generosity, body, weight and a definite tendency to making big wines. More than half of the production is of Côtes-du-Rhône with the best sold as Côtes-du-Rhône Villages. Better still are the so-called crus led by Châteauneuf-du-Pape itself.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape: This large area to the north of Avignon makes the best wines of the south. Reds tend to be grenache based with syrah, mourvèdre and counoise also used. Few wines combine immense strength with perfect elegance quite so convincingly. Word of caution: Châteauneuf produces as much wine as the whole of the northern Rhône put together. A third is very good, a third acceptable and the last third, undrinkable.

Right bank: Villages include Tavel (rosé only) Lirac, Saint-Gervais and Laudun. There is more rain here but it is also hot and grapes are therefore early ripening. Most of the area lies in the département of the Gard and stretches from the river westwards towards Nîmes where at some ill-defined line in the soil, the Rhône becomes the Languedoc. This is an area that has much improved over the years and has become a valuable source for very fine, concentrated syrah wines in particular.

A little further on are the Costieres de Nimes, a large area of upland plateau, south-east of Nîmes. For the moment the Costières produces good everyday wines of good quality but there is potential to do much more.

Northern hills: There are fresh sub-alpine breezes at work here and as a result the wines often have a distinct freshness too. Just north of Orange is the largely wooded and isolated Massif d'Uchaux. Many of its star producers here are able to farm organically.

The three 'Vs' : Valréas, Visan and Vinsobres: These are three top neighbouring villages (with a 4th, Saint-Maurice broadly similar to Vinsobres). Vinsobres has full cru status and makes superb wine. Best names include Perrin, now the largest land owner and Domaine Jaume whose wines have been charming members since the 1979 vintage.

Valréas and Visan are planted on the same hill but tend to look north. Emmanuel Bouchard is one of the top names in Valréas. Adrien Fabre makes both outstanding examples of both Visan and Saint-Maurice.

Tricastin/Grignan-lès-Adhémar - The Tricastin is a much neglected part of the Rhône and coming down from the northern Rhône, these are the first vines one sees. It's a relatively cool area, far too cold for growing mourvèdre successfully, but the whites do very well and so does the syrah grape. The area has seen a name change as Tricastin is also the name of a power station on the river. The new name for the wines (which doesn't exactly trip off the tongue), is Grignan-lès-Adhémar.

Central hills - This includes the villages of Cairanne and Rasteau along with neighbouring Roaix. Big full-bodied wines, grenache dominated. Rasteau is all power and might while Cairanne is more deicate.

Plan de Dieu - Large flat expanse of pudding stones that seem to stretch as far as the eye can see, in the middle of which there is an airfield, (largely built for the Luftwaffe) surrounded by vines. Full-bodied style. Excellent for mourvèdre. Jaboulet are very good here as is the Meffre family.

Eastern fringes - Set against an iconic landscape with Mont Ventoux and the craggy Dentelles de Montmirail as the backdrop, some of these hillsides were first planted by the Romans and include some of the best-known names in the Rhône Valley.

Gigondas: Mountain wine, late harvested, always dramatic and very full-bodied though never coarse or overweight. These are generous reds, capable of long ageing. A little rosé is also made.

Vacqueyras: Next door to Gigondas yet different. Fruitier, a shade less powerful and more obviously charming:

Beaumes de Venise: The red is as full as Gigondas but rounder and less complex and this village is better known for its sweet muscat, a vin doux naturel and perfect for desserts.

Ventoux: At nearly 2000m this is some mountain which scores of cyclists are forced to conquer every year in the Tour de France. Its lower slopes are vineyard country though. Traditionally these were known as Côtes du Ventoux and were made and sold cheaply. Things are changing though with more estates cutting yields and making full and concentrated wine, not dissimilar to and better value than many Châteauneufs.
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Domaine Raspail-Ay

Domaine Raspail Ay is half of the patrimony of Eugène Raspail who founded the domaine in 1854 and is today run by his descendant Dominique who was the president of the Syndicat of Gigondas for many years. He oversees 18 hectares of vines, all of them surrounding his house, and makes Gigondas in a very traditional way, handpicking, destemming and fermenting with the help of natural yeasts for about 15 days before ageing the resultant grenache wine spends 18 to 24 months in large, old foudres while the syrah and mourvédre goes into used barriques. Bottling is done without fining or filtration and the wines have an excellent reputation for their ability to age well.

Rhône Vintage 2016

The verdict of all the growers we asked? ‘Exceptional.’ The weather remained perfect at harvest time and growers had the luxury of being able to pick as they pleased, optimising ripeness, plot by plot. One grower referred to the fruit at harvest time as in ‘demonstration mode’: the crop was immaculate and ripeness complete. Even the stalks that often remain green, had, in many cases, turned brown! The wines really are that good, in both the north and the south – the latter boasting some remarkable successes, especially in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

The Northern Reds

These wines are bright and sleek, and have a wonderful density and purity of fruit, fine, well-integrated tannins and perfect balance. Despite the quality, it was not quite plain sailing in the north: Hermitage was hit by hail in April, in some cases halving the crop. Thankfully, the vines themselves were not too damaged and the wines, if anything, are even more concentrated as a result. Everywhere is good but Saint-Joseph, with...
The verdict of all the growers we asked? ‘Exceptional.’ The weather remained perfect at harvest time and growers had the luxury of being able to pick as they pleased, optimising ripeness, plot by plot. One grower referred to the fruit at harvest time as in ‘demonstration mode’: the crop was immaculate and ripeness complete. Even the stalks that often remain green, had, in many cases, turned brown! The wines really are that good, in both the north and the south – the latter boasting some remarkable successes, especially in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

The Northern Reds

These wines are bright and sleek, and have a wonderful density and purity of fruit, fine, well-integrated tannins and perfect balance. Despite the quality, it was not quite plain sailing in the north: Hermitage was hit by hail in April, in some cases halving the crop. Thankfully, the vines themselves were not too damaged and the wines, if anything, are even more concentrated as a result. Everywhere is good but Saint-Joseph, with its steep granitic slopes tempering the ardour of the vintage, performed particularly well.

The Southern Reds

Perfection! From beginning to end, nothing went against the 2016 harvest in the south. There was heat and rain when it was needed and not a drop more! The wines are a joy. They have weight and concentration to be sure, with tannins that are fine and well integrated, and yet they also have real lift and charm. Châteauneuf is outstanding but then so is everything else. This will be one to savour over many years to come.

The Languedoc-Roussillon
Fantastic wines with classicism and purity of expression, plus a wonderful balancing freshness that really seems to be the signature of this vintage.

The Whites

The cool summer nights helped to preserve the fruit in the white wines, too, and they are excellent: full of flavour and concentration (especially in hail-affected Hermitage), but also purity of fruit and invigorating freshness. The Condrieu wines are wonderful, opulent yet focused, and the Saint-Péray and Crozes-Hermitage whites also stand out for depth and grace. In general, the whites are likely to keep well too.
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2016 vintage reviews
2015 vintage reviews

JancisRobinson.com

Gamey, rich, sweetyet not heavy with herbs and the southern sun. Just the job! … Very subtle andnot heavy, despite the alcohol …

17/20 Jancis Robinson

The Times

The 50 best red winesfor winter: Gorgeous Gigondas from a leading, traditional estate, with aterrific wallop of sweet garrigue herb spice, atop a turbo-charged, leafy,liquorice and black fig-laden palate. ...
The 50 best red winesfor winter: Gorgeous Gigondas from a leading, traditional estate, with aterrific wallop of sweet garrigue herb spice, atop a turbo-charged, leafy,liquorice and black fig-laden palate. Aged for two years in old oak, this isthe cockle-warming red to linger over with cheese and nuts at the end of ameal.
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- Jane MacQuitty

The Daily Telegraph

The best red wines tobuy for Christmas 2020: Perfumed and hedonistic, carrying the scent of wild redberries, dried garrigue herbs and hot wind through olive trees with a fainttexture of pumice, for me...
The best red wines tobuy for Christmas 2020: Perfumed and hedonistic, carrying the scent of wild redberries, dried garrigue herbs and hot wind through olive trees with a fainttexture of pumice, for me this southern Rhône blend is a Christmas classic.
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- Victoria Moore

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