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
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!