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COTES DU RHONE

Gigondas:  A special Côtes du Rhône


Gigondas has traditionally been quality-rated in the middle of the Côtes du Rhône crus, behind, for example, Hermitage, some of the Côte Rôties, and Châteauneuf du Pape, but ahead of St-Joseph, Vacqueyras, Cornas, and the Côtes du Rhône Villages. Well, maybe. We’ve tasted many of the “better” crus that we say can’t match a fine Gigondas. One of us has always been partial to Gigondas, since even in the US it still offers some terrific price-value opportunities. We’d prefer to play the game this way: a wonderful bottle of French wine, regardless of origin, is an enriching experience for the palate and for the soul. One minds the pocketbook, of course, but “good-better-best” should be left to a more formal wine-tasting setting. We recently found a really nice Gigondas for nine bucks a bottle and we’re certainly enjoying the case we bought.

Gigondas, the eponymous village, is on the east side of the Rhone, north of Châteauneuf du Pape and just north of Vacquéyras. It took us a while to get there since we wandered around sightseeing a bit. While doing so we stopped at a small cave and filled our five-liter “cubie” with a fresh, terroir-scented Côtes du Rhône vin du table at what worked out to a-buck-a-bottle. Eventually we landed at Les Celliers Amadieu just below the tiny hill town of Gigondas.  Madame was across the street when we rang the bell and she hustled over with her sweater pulled close against the biting mistral. We tasted several Gigondas and, no doubt about it, the most expensive was the best:  a 1998 Domaine Grand-Romane produced right there at the cave. Goodness! Rich, unmistakable nose and expression of terroir, definite burst of currant and vanilla. Just wonderful.

The wine comes from the steep slopes of the Dentelles de Montmirail, a small formation of extremely sharp peaks...well, “teeth”, as the name implies, a patch of mountainous clay, chalk and shale terrain unique in southern France. When one observes the almost absurdly difficult landscape and the vines planted and harvested on it, one smiles to think of the “easy” life of, for example, the Châteauneuf du Pape vigneron compared to his cousin in Gigondas or the northern Rhône Valley. The Domaine Grand-Romane Gigondas is largely grenache with generous dollops of syrah and mourvèdre grapes, making a rich, full-bodied wine of generous taste from grapes harvested in what has to be the most painstaking way.


The Dentelles de Montmirail oversee Côte du Rhône country


Gigondas, a mix of grenache, syrah & mourvedre grapes

JoeGigondas.jpg (178221 bytes)
A blustery winter day in the village of Gigondas

Instantly pleased with ourselves for making the journey and the purchase, we drove to the top of steeply pitched Gigondas village and warmed ourselves with a wonderful three course lunch (ahh, the salade paysanne with butter lettuce, olives, fromage fermier and potatoes, unified in a bath of warm vinaigrette!) for an astonishing 55 francs. There is plenty to see in this area, including several wonderful hikes up into the Dentelles de Montmirail. What a great way to spend a beautiful afternoon, hiking the territory and then tasting its bounty!     

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