Grenache Purity 
Gigondas: The Grand Tasting
New York City, November 18, 2013
The Dentelles de Montmirail peaks that tower over the Gigondas region.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure to attend a tasting of Gigondas wines hosted by their appellation group Syndicate de Gigondas that represents the producers and growers of this tiny Southern Rhone region where the Grenache grape is king. Multiple vintages were poured, but the majority were 2011, 2010 and a sprinkling of 2009 and 2012. For the longest time I always thought of Gigondas as “more affordable Chateauneuf du Pape look-a likes” that under-achieved. While that may have been true in some aspects in the past, what I tasted this day was to me “quintessential Grenache from Gigondas”. Part of this is my palate appreciation getting better and from what I think are the wines being made in a fresher, more pure style, especially for the Grenache.

Made famous by Kermit Lynch and Robert Parker, Gigondas is a neighboring region to Chateauneuf du Pape. The styles of the wines are similar in many ways, but if one were to generalize the Grenache from Gigondas might be a touch more opulent and elegant then from CdP. The blends from CdP and Gigondas in general are similar with Grenache usually 60-80% of the blend, Mourvedre and Syrah being the second largest portions in the 10-20% range, while Cinsault and the other legal varieties make up 5% or less on average.  The best part are many of these wines are under $30, many on the $20-25 range.
Gigondas is famous not only for its wines, but for the ancient limestone mountain range “Dentelles de Montmirail” that overlooks the entire region like a giant row of jagged teeth (see above lead photo). Sand and limestone soils dominate the region where vines are planted and are the most important sites to plant Grenache vines.
Many of the winemakers or proprietors were there pouring their wines and it was interesting to speak to them about the different styles of production, mostly the aging process after the initial fermentations. Most age the wine in large wood vats called foudre for 12 to 18 months. A good number of others use French oak barrels for the same aging period, with the majority using used barrels that impart little to no oak flavor. Some producers utilize both foudre and used oak barrels. The few that use new French oak barrels do so in small portions in combination with either used barrels or foudre, though some are backing away from new French oak entirely.
My general assessments of the wines per vintage are as follows and are similar to what I have read about, but there are always exceptions so this is not a blanket description for every producer:
2009: Ripe, voluptuous and fleshy wines. The tannins are very ripe and embedded in a wall of fruit, though not much acidity prevails from a wine that usually does not retain a lot to begin with. However the top examples are well balanced and should have long aging potentials. Most of the Gigondas I have had for 2009 are not from this tasting, but from my own personal tastings as well as speaking with these producers at this event.
2010: My personal favorite as far as these vintages go. Ripe fruit, ripe tannin, excellent acidity, these are balanced and super fresh wines that are full bodied, but elegant on the palate as these are not weighty or too sweet. The acidity levels are nearly perfect and elevate this vintage over its brethren.
2011: From my tastings these were the most varied wines in style and quality. Some of the 2011s were excellent wines, while others where middle of the road or better. The difference here is the concentration overall is down a notch from 2010. The wines are balanced, but more delicate, a rung lower than 2010 for me, but it is a noticeable rung. Some of the bottles were tight, but many were ready to go and seem ready to drink now. 2011 are fresher than 2009, but have a similar fruit forward charm with less concentration and intensity.
2012: Though little to no 2012 are available yet to try, it is supposedly close in quality to 2010 with freshness being the marquee characteristic most people are talking about and writing about.

Here are my tasting notes on the wines I tasted that stood out in no particular order.

Domaine du Terme Etiquette Noire 2009

One of the few 2009 wines at the event.
70% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 15% MourvedreStrawberry, ripe fig and spice notes; full bodied, warm, with a silky finish, some stem inclusion used. Definitely shows the voluptuous side of 2009.

Domaine Saint Gayan Cuvee Tradition 2009

80% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre
Shows the 2009 ripeness, but with good balance and plenty of charm from the ripe fruit. Bold and ripe, blackberry and tar, gamey meat, and classic cracked pepper notes. Lush and full bodied, with firm but ripe tannins buried in a wall of glycerin.

Domaine Santa Duc (3 wines)

Les Garancieres Gigondas Red 2010
80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% MourvedreImpeccably balanced and fresh. Blackberry and cherry, garrigue, peppercorns and spice. Tannins are pronounced but ripe, the wine is young and seamlessly textured. My favorite of the 3 Santa Duc wines this day. Garancieres vines average 30 years in age.

Aux Lieux-Dits Gigondas Red 201175% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre, Cinsault 5%Cracked pepper and roasted meats, leather, a touch of cream and garrigue counter red and black fruits. This is the most noticeably tannic of the 3 wines. The vines average 30 years in age.

Prestige Hautes Garrigues Gigondas 2011
78% Old Vine Grenache, 20% Mourvedre, 2% SyrahIntense, deep and ripe. This wine is layered in walls of fruit, glycerin and tannins with some good freshness on the finish. The fruit source is from old Grenache vines that are 60+ years old. Black fruits, garrigue, minerality, a mild smokiness and spice highlight the aromas and flavors.

Chateau Saint Cosme Gigondas 2011 – Traditional blend
60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 18% Mourvedre, 2% Cinsault
Earthy aromas with some funk. Ripe red and blue fruits, with some meaty and smoky notes on the palate. A good structure from the medium to full grain tannins, this was on the tight side but showed nice potential.

Romane Machotte Gigondas 2011

80% Grenache, 20% SyrahThis was a very tightly wound wine, chewy with a very firm and powerful tannic structure. The fruit and spice still pushed through showing cherry, currants, licorice, smoke meat and cracked pepper.

Domaine du Pesquier Gigondas 201075% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 5% MourvedreAged in foudre and concrete vats, this came across incredibly fresh and elegant, though the fruit was quite persistent and long, this wine had great breadth. This was one of the freshest tasting of the entire event, very lively with great acidity and medium grain tannins. Roast meats, stony minerality, raspberry, black plum fan out nicely on the palate. Very small production. 

Lavau Gigondas 2011
50% Grenache, 40% Syrah, 10% MourvedreA fruity and viscous style, this was ripe, though countered well with good acidity. The tannins were fine and velvety; almost too much so but maybe the lush textured fruit make this appear less tannic than it actually is. Blackberry, blueberry, crème d’cassis, chocolate, some spice and some bacon fat highlight the aromas and flavors. The 2011 was aged 12 months in 2-4 year old neutral oak barrels with the fermentations in stainless tanks.

Domaine du Grapillon d’Or (4 wines)

Domaine du Grapillon d’Or Gigondas 1806 201080% Grenache, 20% SyrahGood density, but elegant, a nicely fine and ripe structure with excellent freshness, garrigue, black cherry, pepper and spice. A long finish that is clean and fresh with purity of fruit and minerality. Tannins are very well integrated. 100% tank fermented, this wine ages in old oak barrels for 12 months.
Domaine du Grapillon d’Or Gigondas 1806 2011
80% Grenache, 20% SyrahVery similar to the 2010, but a notch lower in persistence and concentration, tannins are a tad chewier.

Domaine du Grapillon d’Or Excellence Gigondas 201060% Grenache, 40% SyrahFrom 60 year old vines, the Excellence is decadent but fresh, elegant yet powerful. Ripe blackberry, cherry, cracked pepper and roasted meat rise from the glass and fan out on the palate. 100% tank fermented this wine ages in old oak barrels for 18 months.

Domaine du Grapillon d’Or Excellence Gigondas 201160% Grenache, 40% SyrahThe 2011 is similar, with additional notes of licorice and tobacco. The tannins are more pronounced and the acidity is a little lower, so texturally this is a very different wine, but otherwise it shows good parity.

Domaine du Grand Bourjassot – Cuvee Cecile Gigondas 201050% Grenache, 40% Syrah, 10% MourvedreOne of the most complex wines of the event, this is a classically textured wine showing garrigue, spice, red fruits, fresh flowers, peppercorn and Asian spices. Savory and meaty, with more Asian spice on the palate with deep red fruits. Great freshness and length on the finish, I really liked this wine a lot. 3-4 year old neutral barrels age organically farmed fruit that is fermented with stem inclusion in glass lined tanks and then aged in barrel.

Domaine de Font-Sane (2 wines)

Gigondas Tradition 201172% Grenache, 23% Syrah, 3% Mourvedre, 2% CinsaultBlack and red fruits, and spice, this is a medium to full bodied wine with loads of charm. There are medium grain tannins and ample freshness. Aged in used neutral oak casks for 6-8 months.

Gigondas Terrasses des Dentelles 201172% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 3% MourvedreNicely complex, this wine is complicated with cinnamon, licorice, sweet un-smoked cigar tobacco, cedar, red currants and cherry notes that abound in the nose and the palate of this wine. Full bodied and powerful, this wine shows sound structure and good freshness. Full bodied, the tannins are firm but very ripe. Aged 1 year in cask.

Domaine des Florets (3 wines)

Gigondas Supreme 201180% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 5% MourvedreRaised 100% in 5-6 year old barrels, this cuvee is from 60 year old vines. This is a big wine, with loads of texture and glycerin, blackberry compote, roasted black plum and subtle spice fan out in layers on the palate.

Domaine du Clos des Tourelles Gigondas 2010Grenache, Syrah blend (%s not stated)This is a very, well made wine, showing the money behind it from the Perrin (Beaucastel) family. This is stylish and dense, but texturally persistent and pure. Red fruits like raspberry and cherry dominate the nose and palate, superb minerality, subtle spice and just a touch of cedar layer in with the fruit. This is aged 15 months in cask with no de-stemming during the initial fermentation. The vineyard is close to being certified organic and bio-dynamic. One of the best from Gigondas, it also is one of the most expensive and only available in limited quantities of 2,500 6 packs.

Domaine Cecile Chassagne Gigondas 201180% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% MourvedreGarrigue, pepper, red fruits, stony minerality, good length with sweet cigar tobacco, and savory smoked meat. Very well made, this wine is powerful with a full-bodied tannic texture and ample acidity. This finished nicely, clean and long.

Domaine du Cayron Gigondas 201070% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, 14% Syrah, 10% MourvedreOne of my favorite Gigondas since my first encounter with the 2007 vintage, the 2010 is on the money and just as good if not better as it is much fresher with the same intensity and concentration. Traditionally, the wine spends 6 to 12 months ageing in large oak foudre. The vines range in age from 30 to 50 years old. This is for me one of the best buys not only in the Rhone but in the entire world of wine. Pen ink, juicy currants, pepper, licorice and garrigue, with flecks of lavender. Impeccably balanced, medium bodied with medium to full bodied tannin and a super fresh long finish. 

Domaine de Bosquets (2 wines)

Domaine de Bosquets le Lieu Dit Gigondas 2011
100% GrenacheFrom 50 to 130 year old vines, these have to be some of the oldest, if not the oldest Grenache vines in Gigondas. A powerful and fresh wine, black cherry, blackberry, a touch of smoked meats, fresh flowers and some notes of stony minerality pervade the nose and the palate. This is purity and finesse defined. A well made 2011 with a clean on long finish. Fermented in steel, aged in 600L neutral 203 year old oak casks.

Domaine des Bosquets Gigondas 201170% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, 14% Syrah, 10% MourvedreAged for 12 months in cement vats, this is a regional blend of all the estate vine holdings. Cherry and pepper; creamy and round with firm but ripe tannins.

I hope you enjoyed this small break from Portugal, we will return next with Alves de Sousa from the Douro Valley of Portugal.
A bientot,



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