A viticultural cousin of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas is one of the most acclaimed appellations of the Rhône, making big, bold wines that combine power and verve. The wines are often considered more tannic than those of Châteauneuf, though they are less charming and elegant. Gigondas' solely red wines classically express Grenache's powerful side, with chunky, heavy fruit flavors. The wines are similar to those of Vacqueyras.
Gigondas' vineyards are located only in the eponymous commune. Gigondas is only 1/3 the size of Châteauneuf; though still large, it makes 400,000 cases of wine a year, as opposed to millions. The smaller size is both a disadvantage and an advantage. Though it means the wines of Gigondas have less variety and at their peak are less impressive, there are fewer lower-quality offerings as well.
Winemaking here dates from Roman times at least, but details are murky; as early as the 1500s, Gigondas wines were being mentioned in literature. The wines noted were white, which indicates that this appellation has changed significantly in the past several hundred years. Gigondas was first part of Côtes du Rhône-Villages, but by the mid-20th century growers were realizing the soil's potential and in 1971 Gigondas AOC was formed.
Climate and Viticulture
The town of Gigondas is surrounded by a large mountain range with sharp, high peaks. Many of the best wines are made on the slopes of this range. The climate is warm, very Mediterranean, and similar to that of Châteauneuf. The soil type is almost always red clay, although limestone exists towards the top of the hills. Altitude is also a factor; vineyards from the summit of the mountain can yield completely different results from those at sea level.
Gigondas has some unusual rules and regulations. Main grape Grenache, which constitutes the majority of most blends, is actually limited to 80%, and is not even required to be included in the blend! Meanwhile, either Syrah or Mourvèdre must make up at least 15% of the blend. Despite the inconsistent rules, most producers do use a large amount of Grenache. The red wines made here are often full of black fruit flavors and earthy nuances such as chocolate and kirsch. They should be aged for at least five years and possibly as many as 20.
For its size, this appellation has incredibly consistent wines, with few lagging the field. We have picked out eight producers who really do something special with their terroirs.
- Domaine la Boüisière: This domaine's basic Gigondas is a dark, deep, highly perfumed mix of black fruit flavors and earthy, smoky, chocolaty scents. The Font de Tonin is the cuvée, with layers of smoke, herb, and bright spice flavors.
- Domaine Brusset: With heavy, liqueur-like fruit and coffee flavors, Brusset's concentrated but smooth Les Hauts de Montmirail is an unusual but faithful expression of the appellation.
- Perrin et Fils: Perrin's La Gille is a highly pedigreed concoction of smooth spicy fruit notes, minerality, scents of game, and heavy tannins. The Vieilles Vignes, however, is a much better wine, with wild, candied berry fruit flavors and a Châteauneuf-like combination of sweetness and intensity.
- Domaine Raspail-Ay: Made from old vine grapes located in vineyards that have Châteauneuf-like quartzite pebbles, Raspail-Ay's Gigondas wine is a perfumed, herbal concoction of berry fruit flavors, dark spiciness, and some florality. The wine has neither too much nor too little structure. Also look out for the Réserve.
- Château de St-Cosme: Probably the top Gigondas producer in terms of both quality and quantity. The basic Gigondas is a notably smooth, smoky mix of bitter berry fruit flavors, with earthy nuances in the background. The Les Claux is the least remarkable of the cuvées but nonetheless a good wine, often characterized as an aromatic, vibrant, surprisingly nervy mix of fruit and herb flavors. The Valbelle is a more powerful, dark concoction, with an additional layer of floral complexity. The Le Poste is another level up, with spicy, smoky, dark fruit flavors tinged with notes of flowers, game and minerals. This peppery, Syrah-like wine is more northern Rhône than southern Rhône in style. Hominis Fides is the top cuvée; it combines rich fruit flavors with sweet floral scents.
- Domaine St-Damien: Wild and rich, with explosive but heavy notes of red berry fruit and cooked meat, the basic Gigondas is better than most here. The Vieilles Vignes is more smooth and appealing, with exotic, peppery fruit flavors and good florality. The exotic, smoky, remarkably fresh La Louisiane is one of the finer cuvées. Best is the silky, elegant, surprisingly herbal, concentrated but gentle Les Souteyrades.
- Domaine Santa Duc: The basic Gigondas here is very good, with a sappy, dizzying combination of earthy herbal scents with deeper, more intense chocolaty notes. The Les Hautes Garrigues is more complex, with brooding, powerful aromas of smoke and chocolate.
- Tardieu-Laurent: The basic Gigondas here is very good, with smoky, spicy flavors of fruit, chocolaty earth, and minerality. The Vieilles Vignes has deeper, spicier flavors.
Despite its size, Gigondas has no notable subregions, official or unofficial.