When I first began seriously exploring European wines, someone recommended a Gigondas. Not knowing any better, I took them up on their suggestion and have never looked back. Most recently, I had a 2013 bottle of Domaine du Cayron Gigondas that belied the years this varietal has graced the earth. I was captivated by the strong, rustic flavor of a wine that has always been in the shadow of Châteauneuf du Papes, in the Rhône region of southeastern France. In the first century BC, the Romans established a colony at the site, which was so jovial, Caesar called it Jucundus, the joyful, with the town becoming known as Jocunditas, and eventually Gigondas.
The jagged limestone spurs just above the vineyards of this area, known as Dentelles de Montmirail, are landmarks for all who go to Gigondas. The rains wash down the limestone into the waiting vines, but if this were all that made this region what it is, there would be little problem replicating the wines made here. It has been truthfully said that terroir is more than just the dirt in which the vines grow. A tradition of wine making dating back to the Roman era has allowed wine makers in Gigondas to develop their wine into a gutsy wine that carries a fruitful flavor and bears witness to the aging of the wine in stainless steel and then oak barrels. This aging, sometimes going on as much as eight years or more, delivers notes of mesquite and black tea.
The Gigondas appellation, an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC), is southeast of the appellation where Châteauneuf du Pape is grown, and produces only red grapes. Because of its proximity to its better known cousin, many have accused wine makers of fashioning their wines after the Châteauneuf du Pape. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. There is the the Grenache grape, which is the principle grape in the wine, giving a strong body and fruitfulness. Add in Mouvedre, a blending grape that lends toward the structure and spiciness of the wines from this region, and the basis for one of France’s better wines is set. Syrah is one of the more prevalent grapes grown in this region, next to Grenache, and its inclusion in the wines made in this region set it aside from other varietals.
Understanding the historical perspective and even the geological nature of a wine is one thing, but I believe the most important piece when evaluating a wine is the enjoyment factor. Whether drunk solo or with food, the mouth on the Domaine du Cayron Gigondas wine makes it almost chewable, which is not a bad thing considering the velvet touch it has on your pallet. The initial taste of chocolate sets the stage for a mature experience of the fruit of the vine as it develops in ones mouth. The robust and almost chewy taste of leather and dark berries awakens ones senses and delights the soul. A medium bodied wine, the sophisticated and complex taste definitely should be accompanied by a good roast with all the trimmings, raising the beef to new heights. The rustic flavor would balance perfectly the gamey taste of the venison.
Looking online, some websites declared their shelves out of stock of this amazing bottle (oh, cruel throw of dice). Have no fear if you wanted to try it. Look stage center, the lights come on the latest wine merchants in the Fredericksburg area, City-Vino. Specializing in good wines many stores do not carry, this soon to be city icon carries the bottle described in this column and many more excellent choices if Gigondas happens not to be a fave. ]
Enjoy your favorite wine responsibly. One more thing, Cheers!