Gigondas: Châteauneuf’s little brother


There is a hierarchy within the family of villages that makes up the Southern Rhône. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is famous the world over, and achieves heights of excellence that make it the pride of the region. This firstborn son is prone to take itself a little seriously however, and sometimes its bullish behaviour can go unchecked: flyaway alcohol levels, excess new oak and unreasonable pricing.

To the northeast of Châteauneuf lies Gigondas, the youngest of the family. Whereas Châteauneuf sits on the flat near Avignon in a sea of rounded stones, the bohemian town of Gigondas is perched on a hillside amongst pine, oak and olive trees. The vineyards climb from the flat plains right up to the Dentelles de Montmirail, a striking ridge of limestone teeth that juts out from the top of the hill 630m above sea level. This additional altitude gives freshness to the wines. The town has a more relaxed, easy-going vibe compared to its fêted older brother, and this is reflected in the wines.

There is a strong family resemblance; both are based on Grenache, with Syrah and Mourvèdre backing it up. You can find a little rosé (and, rumour has it, soon some white) but 99% is red. The Mourvèdre and Syrah act as a frame that hold in the supple Grenache fruit; full, soft and flowing in texture with kirsch, strawberry and blackberry flavour overlaid with sun-dried Mediterranean herbs. It’s versatile with food, pairing well with pork, lamb and game.

For lovers of Châteauneuf, Gigondas is well worth exploring and often relatively good value. In exceptional vintages such as 2010 the wines can be just as powerful and the best will live for a decade or two. Gigondas may not have attained the professional success that has made Châteauneuf a household name, but like many younger siblings, it is happy quietly doing its own thing off the beaten track, and doing it with style.


Tesco Finest Gigondas 2012 (Tesco, £12.99)

An attractive and authentic Gigondas from a leading co-operative with plenty of strawberry fruit and a rub of dried herbs.

Domaine Saint Gayan Gigondas 2010 (Yapp, £16.95) 

Black cherry, thyme and lavender with earthy notes. Full-bodied with a smooth texture and an exuberantly fruity burst of flavour in the mouth. Ripe and juicy.

Dauvergne Ranvier ‘Vin Rare’ Gigondas 2010 (Davy’s, £18.50)

Darkly coloured and flavoured with real impact, this is a brooding and powerful Gigondas. Keep for a few more years – this will develop into something special and should prove terrific value.

Domaine Santa Duc ‘Cuvée Tradition’ Gigondas 2010 (H2Vin, £22.50)  

Beautiful aromas of violets, spiced plums, lavender and black cherry. Full-bodied but bright and fresh with supple tannins, this has bags of flavour right into the finish. Pure and expressive, a joy to drink.


First published in Living France magazine.