Gigondas Wine: The Rhone Valley's Value Alternative to Chateauneuf du Pape

The best Gigondas wines will cellar well for ten years or more, however most should be drunk earlier.  For my tastes, they are at their best about 3 to 5 years from vintage after giving the wines a few years to round out and soften in the bottle.  For your convenience my Southern Rhone Red Vintage Chart may be helpful. 

For my tastes there are two producers whose wines are not only the best Gigondas, but rival most Chateauneuf wines as well.  Domaine Santa Duc was constructed in 1884.  Their basic Gigondas Tradition has 75% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, and 5% Cinsault and sees 14 months of oak.  It sells for around $40 (the price has risen in recent years) and is an excellent wine that really needs a few years in the cellar.  Santa Duc also makes a Prestige de Hautes Garrigues which costs about $15 more.  It is a blend of 80% old vine Grenache, 15% Mourvedre, 3% Syrah and 2% Cinsault.  The wine sees two years in oak.  This may be the best wine produced in this appellation.  At $55, it is not cheap, but is a truly great wine. 

The other top producer is Chateau de St. Cosme.  The estate is on a site that was most likely used for growing grapes back in the Roman era.  It has been a wine estate since at least 1416 as attested by a document mentioning the granting by Jean de Chalon, Prince of Orange, of "land for the planting of vines on the Saint Cosme slopes." The Barruol's (the present day owners) ancestors acquired it in 1570, and at the end of the sixteenth century built a residence over the existing cellars.  St. Cosme makes five Gigondas wines.  The Hominis Fides and the Le Claux are 100% Grenache.  The vines are quite old; believed to be over one hundred years in age.  The Le Poste is a proprietary blend of grapes.  Only two barrels are produced in a vintage.  The Valbelle is 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah and blended from the estates oldest vines.  All four of these wines see time in oak and are available for around $60.  Any of these four wines is as good as it gets in Gigondas and is absolutely as good as 99% of the wines from Chateuneuf.  They also make a regular Gigondas which is 67% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 12% Mourvedre and 1% Cinsault.  At a cost of about $35, this is an excellent wine.  All of these wines need some time in the cellar and are capable of ageing for fifteen years. 

There are several other producers whose Gigondas I like as well.  They include Les Haut Montmirail, Domaine Raspail (Ay), Montirius, Tardieu-Laurent, Domaine Grapillion D’Or, Domaine Les Paillieres.  One final producer I would like to recommend is Domaine de Cayron.  Their Gigondas is very traditional.  Usually around 70% Grenache and 15% each of Syrah and Mourvèdre.  These wines really need a good five years in the cellar to strut their stuff.  They are earthy and mineral driven wines that can age easily for fifteen years.

When pairing food with a Gigondas, I would opt for dishes as robust and rustic as the wine.  A menu including beef stroganoff, stews or even spare ribs would work well.  These wine match well with hard cheeses as well. 

The next time you feel like buying a Chateauneuf du Pape, don’t be afraid to look 20 miles to the northeast and try a Gigondas.  You might end up with a very nice wine at less cost.  I hope you will all go out and try one and please, let me know what you think. 

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Loren Sonkin is an Featured Contributor and the Founder/Winemaker at Sonkin Cellars.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.