Domaine Santa Duc
In 1874, the first buildings were constructed. Six generations have succeeded each other at Domaine Santa Duc, each adding their own contribution to its development. Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Cinsault; the Gras family are committed to bringing out the best in these noble grapes. Massal selections, biodynamics, whole cluster vinification, fermentation with wild yeasts, minimum intervention, non-filtered wines…. Parcel by parcel, Benjamin Gras maintains this meticulous approach at the head of the estate today, engaging this heritage and these skills in the service of two immense terroirs of the southern Rhone Valley – Gigondas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
In 1985, Yves Gras took over from his father Edmond and offered a new international dimension to the wines endowed with generously ripe fruit, a touch of wild herbs and immense length. Very soon Robert Parker was writing: “Santa Duc combines the muscle, richness and fire of a classic Gigondas with a degree of elegance and purity that many wines of this appellation lack.” In 2005, the book “The World’s Greatest Wine Estates”, published by Simon & Schuster, showcases the long history and unique character of the estate’s wines. “Les Hautes Garrigues”, from one of the best vineyards in the region on the great plateau of Gigondas, attains iconic status. It is a wine that reveals an immediately recognizable expression of the terroir of Gigondas and a distinct minerality drawn from the argillaceous and incredibly stony soils. But Yves Gras’ vision, as keen as that of the Grand Duc owl that is found in the region, and after which the Domaine is named, takes him ever further afield. Continuing his search for cool terroirs capable of producing great wines, he acquires several magnificent parcels at Châteauneuf-du-Pape, at la Crau.
Yves Gras began a new project in 1994. He renovated and embellished a forgotten Clos, magnificently situated overlooking the church and the hospice of the village of Gigondas: the “Clos DerrièreVieille”. For Benjamin, who has taken the helm, one thing is certain: the soils and the orientation may be different between this monopole Clos and « Les Hautes Garrigues”, but the philosophy remains unquestionably the same. Massal selections, biodynamics, whole cluster vinification, fermentation with wild yeast, minimum intervention, non-filtered wines.
2019. An expertise unique in Gigondas, extended also to the single parcel selections of Châteauneuf-du-Pape – La Crau Ouest, Les Saintes Vierges, Le Pied de Baud, Habemus Papam, allow Benjamin to reveal the qualities that are essential in a great wine: balance, elegance, purity and depth. Only natural for a family of winemakers born at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail hills, whose splendour and natural beauty are a daily source of creative inspiration.
6th generation of the Gras family, Benjamin has worked hand in hand with his father since 2017. After obtaining a diploma in oenology at the University of Bourgogne in Dijon, his experience was enriched by periods spent in prestigious wine estates such as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Bodega Vega-Sicilia. The OIV MSc in Wine Management program gave him the extraordinary opportunity to visit 28 wine producing countries and meet and exchange with his peers from around the world. This experience reinforced his beliefs and his admiration for the skills and the excellence of the very best estates, working as close as possible to nature and expressing all the singularity of each terroir via a parcel selection approach. He therefore maintained organic agriculture, converting the entire estate to biodynamic methods in the Autumn of 2016, and re-thinking the range of wines to put the emphasis on local terroirs. Just as his father did, he favours as little intervention as possible in winemaking, and respect for what nature has offered, whilst working with extreme precision and rigor. A work of continuity, but with the passion and the zeal of youth, he brings new energy just as his father did in his time.