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Domaine Pierre Gaillard

Family Values: Saint Joseph, Côte-Rôtie et al. from an Icon of the Northern Rhône

Be it a Saint Joseph, a Côte-Rôtie or a Condrieu, every time you open a bottle with Pierre Gaillard’s name on it, you know you’re going to get a finely crafted and bristling expression of the soils from where it came. That’s his thing. Pierre Gaillard’s relationship with wine began at the age of 12 when he was found ploughing a neighbour’s vineyard by horse. Naturally, he went on to study viticulture and oenology (in Beaune) before obtaining a graduate diploma in winemaking from Montpellier. Not long after, Gaillard caught the eye of Etienne Guigal, who employed this talented and ambitious young viticulturalist to manage his growing roster of Côte Rôtie vineyards. 

Be it a Saint-Joseph, Côte-Rôtie or one of the Domaine’s fleshy whites, we’re yet to have a bottle of Gaillard let us down, just as we are yet to meet a wine lover who has not been anything less than delighted to share a bottle of this grower’s wine at a Bibendum table.

In 1981, while still working with Guigal, Gaillard professed he would like to buy his own parcel of Syrah, with a view to one day creating his own family Domaine. To his credit, Guigal offered to sell him one of his own parcels, and the choice then came down to two: a little-known vineyard called La Turque in Côte Rôtie; and another ancient wine-growing estate in high country Saint Joseph, dating back to Roman times called Clos de Cuminaille. The rest, as they say, is history.

There is no dead weight in the Gaillard cellar and each wine offers precision and purity of fruit. This is not to suggest Gaillard is a technocrat. Far from it. He has great vineyards, infectious passion, makes good decisions and possesses a dirt-under-the-fingernails grit meaning most of the hard work has been done before the fruit arrives in the cellar. The quality of fruit he harvests, allied to his fine touch in the cellar, results in some of the most evocative, flavoursome and stylish northern Rhône wines going around.

Now working alongside his son, Pierre-Antoine, and daughters, Jeanne and Elise, the wines of this Estate have never been in a better place. Gaillard belongs to that rare breed of Northern Rhône producer (let’s be honest) whose wines dole out a whole lot of pleasure no matter when or where they are opened. Therein lies the moral. Quality at a fair price rarely goes out of style.

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Domaine Pierre Gaillard Saint-Joseph Rouge 2021

Domaine Pierre Gaillard Saint-Joseph Rouge 2021

Gaillard’s Saint-Joseph is drawn from several parcels in the high country of Malleval, Chavanay and Limony in the far north of the appellation. The vines lie closer to Vienne and Condrieu than to Tournon-sur-Rhône in the south. Gaillard’s steep, cool soils have plenty of granite, which contributes to the mineral cut of this perfumed and vibrant Syrah. At the same time, varying altitudes and aspects offer Gaillard various blending options and are key to the impressive consistency of this wine.As usual, each parcel was destemmed and vinified separately. Aging was mostly in used Allier and Nevers barrels for 18 months, and the wine was bottled unfiltered. This is an immediately engaging, sleek, detailed and fragrant St-Jo with an array of red and blue fruits, exotic spices, and a lick of 2021’s roasted herb flavour. While it’s the kind of crunchy-textured throwback vintage that screams ‘Don’t wait’, it has everything in place to suggest it will get better and better over the next five-plus years. But then again, why wait?!

Domaine Pierre Gaillard Saint-Joseph Rouge 2021
Domaine Pierre Gaillard Saint-Joseph Blanc 2022

Domaine Pierre Gaillard Saint-Joseph Blanc 2022

Even in the Rhône, single-varietal Roussanne is a rare bird. Jean-Baptiste Souillard, a young producer with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the region, recently estimated there are only 10 or so producers who do not blend their Roussanne with Marsanne. Made entirely from Roussanne (and inspired by a tasting of Beaucastel’s Vieilles Vignes Châteauneuf early on in Gaillard’s career), this is one of those wines that make you question that logic.The grapes were drawn from several low-yielding sites situated in the far north of the appellation: the relatively cool granite plateau of Malleval at Les Dries; on the slopes of Malleval at Chartres; and finally, from Les Vessettes in Chavanay. The wine spent eight months in used Allier and Nevers barrels sourced from growers in Chassagne and Pouilly-Fuissé.It’s a lovely release pitched between stone-fruited fleshy richness and bright, savoury structure. It’s an intense, creamy-textured wine where herbs and blossom have the upper hand over spicy, yellow plum and nutty lees notes. And there’s a delicious umami thing going on, too. Complex and seductive, this is already drinking deliciously.

“Yellow robe; peach, apricot juice, quince airs show on the friendly nose, a dab of mineral. The palate has a flattering debut, is soft and peachy, hints of white strawberry in a tender, quiet close. It has an up in the air manner.”
John Livingstone-Learmonth, Drink Rhône
Domaine Pierre Gaillard Saint-Joseph Blanc 2022
Domaine Pierre Gaillard Saint-Joseph Rouge 2021 (375ml)

Domaine Pierre Gaillard Saint-Joseph Rouge 2021 (375ml)

Gaillard’s Saint-Joseph is drawn from several parcels in the high country of Malleval, Chavanay and Limony in the far north of the appellation. The vines lie closer to Vienne and Condrieu than to Tournon-sur-Rhône in the south. Gaillard’s steep, cool soils have plenty of granite, which contributes to the mineral cut of this perfumed and vibrant Syrah. At the same time, varying altitudes and aspects offer Gaillard various blending options and are key to the impressive consistency of this wine.As usual, each parcel was destemmed and vinified separately. Aging was mostly in used Allier and Nevers barrels for 18 months, and the wine was bottled unfiltered. This is an immediately engaging, sleek, detailed and fragrant St-Jo with an array of red and blue fruits, exotic spices, and a lick of 2021’s roasted herb flavour. While it’s the kind of crunchy-textured throwback vintage that screams ‘Don’t wait’, it has everything in place to suggest it will get better and better over the next five-plus years. But then again, why wait?!

Domaine Pierre Gaillard Saint-Joseph Rouge 2021 (375ml)
Domaine Pierre Gaillard Condrieu 2022 (375ml)

Domaine Pierre Gaillard Condrieu 2022 (375ml)

Gaillard’s Condrieu is drawn from four parcels grown on the terraced slopes of Côte Bellay, Les Patasses (Malleval), Boissey (Chavanay) and La Caille (Condrieu). Each of these sites has soils of fine, decomposing granite. In 2020, the vines here yielded 30 hl/ha of vibrant Viognier fruit, and the wine spent seven months in oak, of which 10% was new. One of our favourite aspects of Gaillard’s whites is their ability to combine intense aromatics and ripe, hedonistic textures with bright mineral refreshment, and this is a textbook example of that paradox. It’s a classically alluring, richly textured Condrieu with scents and flavours of honeysuckle and juicy, macerated peach and spice. It combines the year’s flesh and generosity with juicy buoyancy, great length and a very long, stony finish.

Domaine Pierre Gaillard Condrieu 2022 (375ml)
Domaine Pierre Gaillard Côte-Rôtie 2021

Domaine Pierre Gaillard Côte-Rôtie 2021

Gaillard’s Côte-Rôtie is a co-fermented blend of 90% Syrah and 10% Viognier from the schist soils of Fongeant and Viallière (Ampuis) and a parcel of vines on gneiss at Semons in the south of the appellation. All the fruit was harvested by hand with a strict selection, ensuring only the finest bunches and berries made it into the final blend. The fruit was 100% destemmed and vinification involved a five-day pre-fermentation soak and then regular punch-downs. The wine spent 18 months in barrique (35% new) and was bottled without filtration. Rhône scholar John Livingstone-Learmonth describes the wine well. The palate is vibrant and fresh, with lots of juicy, textured dark fruits, smoky black olive and some anise fruit, all encased within an elegant, fine tannin structure. Very Côte Blonde this year. We would simply add that the wines need at least six months in the bottle for all the elements to fuse.

“Dark red robe. The bouquet has a comfortable depth, with the promise of opening and variety; there is a mass of black berry fruits for now. The palate has a suave tone, a cosy middle, carries gourmand appeal, the fruit on mixed red and black berries, a spur of freshness in the ferrous tannins. It’s wild in a good way on the second half, has character, the length nicely sustained. From late-2024.”
John Livingstone-Learmonth, Drink Rhône
Domaine Pierre Gaillard Côte-Rôtie 2021
Domaine Pierre Gaillard Saint-Joseph Clos de Cuminaille 2021 (1500ml)

Domaine Pierre Gaillard Saint-Joseph Clos de Cuminaille 2021 (1500ml)

The Clos de Cuminaille is one of the most privileged sites of Saint-Joseph. It’s an east-facing, walled vineyard on Chavanay’s pure granite soils and produces one of the most distinctive wines of the appellation each year. When Gaillard bought this three-hectare site, he passed on the chance to buy a slice of the now-renowned La Turque vineyard in Côte-Rôtie, a site he helped plant. He simply felt that Clos de Cuminaille was better. The vines here are now more than 30 years old, and the winemaking is no different from the Saint-Joseph—save for a touch more new oak (a well-integrated 25% this year). As always, this is a much more textural and polished experience compared to the regular Saint-Joseph cuvée. It’s pulpy and layered with juicy plum and pastille fruit, scored by hints of grilled herbs and sappy, northern Rhône spice. It carries the refreshing signature of the vintage with style and substance. Not the power of 2020, for example, but that’s all the better for drinking young.

“The 2021 Saint Joseph Clos De Cuminaille has a deep purple hue as well as terrific aromatics of both red and blue fruits, peppery herbs, violets, and new saddle leather. With good density, medium body, fine tannins, and outstanding length, it has lots to love and is well worth seeking out.”
91-93 points, Jeb Dunnuck, jebdunnuck.com
Domaine Pierre Gaillard Saint-Joseph Clos de Cuminaille 2021 (1500ml)
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"Located above the picturesque medieval village of Malleval, the drive up to his winery and tasting room offers spectacular views over the surrounding countryside. The wines are pretty darn good too, especially the top-end stuff from Saint Joseph and Côte Rôtie... If the current trend of hot, sunny vintages continues, these will increasingly be wines to seek out.” Joe Czerwinski, The Wine Advocate

“Pierre Gaillard makes exciting, delicious wines in all three appellations. His St Joseph, in both white and red, is better than more prestigious ACs from less devoted, less artistic producers.” Jacqueline Friedrich, The Wines of France

Country

France

Primary Region

Northern Rhône

People

Winemakers: The Gaillard Family

Availability

National

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