Part 3 of the Rhône series
If there is a wine that always confuses me as a Châteaunuef-du-Pape (CDP) in a blind tasting, it would be Gigondas. The name has Latin origins and comes from the word jocunditas, meaning joy or pleasantness.
With alcohol levels comparable to that of CDP, it can become difficult to tell the difference between both wines with all the jammy fruit and volatile notes attacking one’s nose. It is sometimes said in the literature that Gigondas comes forth with power over CDP’s elegance. This belief may be due to the fact that Gigondas is located more inland compared to CDP, making the climate continental and warmer. With Gigondas in its youth, it is about fruit and kirsch compared to CDP’s balsamic notes and nuances of anise, leather and spice.
Perhaps the differences were true 20 years ago, before the onset of global warming but my time in the Rhône has made me view this differently. Although the appellations of Gigondas and CDP are about 30 minutes apart by driving, the terrior is significantly different. This is the nature of France where vineyards next to each other in the same region can be distinctly different. A fine example is how the appellations of Pomerol and St-Émilion are separated by a road because of the difference in soil.
The elevation of Gigondas ranges from 150 to 500 meters, at least 4 times higher than CDP. Gigondas has range of soils such as marl, limestone sandy-silt and on the slopes, it has red clay alluvial. Near the river of l’Ouvèze, the soil is alluvial and as you approach the foot of the Dentelles, the soils turned to more sandy-clay. Higher up the slopes and terraces, the soil increases in the percentage of limestone. It does not have the same giant pebbles that CDP has and the soil is visibly dustier than CDP. I prefer to think that with the higher elevation and the limestone soils, the grapes produced are less over-ripe compared to CDP, therefore, producing more elegant wines than CDP.
From tastings done in both regions, I suspect the reason why differentiating a CDP and Gigondas blind with such difficulty is related to the terrior of CDP. CDP contains different types of soils and not all grapes planted in CDP are on the pebbly, siliceous soil. The soil types in the North and the South are quite different. Add to the fact that the aspects of different vineyards in CDP are not the same. Thus, it is possible for vignerons to produce different wines within the CDP Appellation when they have different vineyard holdings throughout CDP – the super-ripe styles, the oxidised styles or the elegant styles. While in Gigondas, soils are more consistent and differences in the grapes rely more on elevation. I found Gigondas wines from different vignerons can taste more consistently like Gigondas while CDP can taste so different from vigneron to vigneron, sometimes like a Gigondas.
It is a strange thing that since Gigondas is more inland than CDP, this means that theoretically, Gigondas should be warmer than CDP but if so, I wonder why CDP is harvested 2 weeks before Gigondas. Again, I suspect that lower elevation and the heat-retaining properties of CDP plays a role in this. Both appellations receive at least 2800 of sunshine and both have the effects of the Mistral wind.
In terms of alcohol levels, both appellations produce 14% or higher wines but for CDP, I notice that it can go up to 16%. I have not tasted a 16% Gigondas yet. Gigondas only produces reds and one percent of their total production as rosé. The permitted blend for the reds is a minimum of 50% Grenache and a minimum of 15% Syrah and Mourvèdre. However, the total blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre must be 90% or more of the blend. Other grapes, including white grapes, are permitted a maximum proportion of 10% are allowed except Carignan.
Domaine les Goubert by Jean-Pierre Cartier
Although Jean-Pierre was not around that day, the wines told me all I need to know about him. Not only are his wines full of power and poise. Moreover, I am amazed by the cleanliness of his cellars – absolutely spotless. It is also a joy to see his private cellar being stocked by top wines from all over the world, giving me an impression that this is not a man confined to his own region, but is keeping up to speed with the quality of wines all over the world.
As I walked the vineyards of Domaine les Goubert, I notice one square meter of foliage per vine. The first two leaves before the flowers before the formation of the berries are usually taken off as they suck too much energy from the vine. This helps grape ripening as well. Weeds are left alone to prevent sand erosion and give the vines competition for water. Without the sand, the soil loses some of its water-retaining properties. A strange practice being performed in the vineyards is the throwing of a mouldy lemon among the vines to combat ants. When the ants eat the lemon and return with more mouldy lemon to their nest, the ant population dies within a month from disease.
The Domaine uses Françoise Frères oak made from Troncais and Citaux Forêt oak.
Gigondas, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, 2-5% Clairette, 14.5% abv €12.50
Purple colour. Light cedar, vanilla nose with subtle spices and redcurrants, some mineral and earth, caramel, popcorn-like aromas. The palate is med(+) acid, fruit on the front with high tannins, a rusty texture, sturdy mid palate, earth and schist, long length, herbs in the back such as rosemary and thyme.
80% of the wine was in tanks and the rest in barrel.
Gigondas, 2007, 14.5%
Semi-opaque ruby colour. Aromas of sweet beetroot, light savoury thyme, garrigue, medium intensity, stony and herbal, black tea, enticing complexity. The palate is full of schist rock flavours, very complex, high tannins and gritty texture, very sturdy mid palate, med(+) acid and long length. Herbs such as allspice are in there. Very complex finish of earth and terrior. Some of that upfront aroma is full of sweetness like in Mayonnaise.
Cuvée Florence, Grenache & Syrah, 2006, Gigondas €23
Garnet colour. Nose of caramel, cedar, vanilla, blackberry fruit, youthful for a 06, Med(+) intensity, beautiful oak. On the palate, juicy, lots of flavour, high tannins with grainy texture, med(+) acid, very long length, back palate is complex, mushroom and spice such as cloves, so complex but starting to shut down on the palate. Drink now!
50% new oak and the rest old. From old vines.
Cuvée Florence 2005, Gigondas
Orange colour. Black tea nose, sweet bramble fruit, light cedar, subtle but slightly closed and need decanting. On the palate, high tannins, chalky texture, mid palate is beautiful, lots of flavour in the mid palate, spice, red berry, dense wine, long length. Full of herbs like bay leaves and Asian spice.
*Cuvée Florence 2004, Gigondas, 14.5%
Garnet colour. A developing nose, with beautiful oak, cedar, mushroom, black tea, tree moss, lighted, high intensity. On the palate, med(+) tannins, very long length, earth, rubble, tree moss, med(+) alcohol, smooth tannins, high flavour intensity, lots of power in the back, black tea. Very Good wine!
*Gigondas 1998, 13%
Semi-transparent brown. Nose of mushroom, earth, truffle, wet earth, savoury, gamey, pronounced intensity, developed. On the palate, herbs, tomato bush, bay leaves, med(+) tannins and alcohol, smooth, herbs, very long length, chinese dates, and mushroom finish. A beautiful palate. So balanced and full of flavour.
*Gigondas 1978, no label
Semi-transparent tawny. Aromas of soy, wholemeal bread, baked wood, light balsamic notes, mushroom in chinese stock, exotic aromas, miso, slight oxidised aromas, and pronounced intensity. On the palate, med(+) acid, herbs, complexity, a little port like, very long length, very complex, a slightly oxidised back palate, soy beans, miso, balsamic note.
Domaine de Coyeux
Gigondas, Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre, 2008, 14%, €13
Opaque purple colour. Black cherry nose that smells of kirsch and sweetness, cassis notes, med(+) intensity. ON the palate, med(+) tannins, grainy texture, sweet fruit and ink, light spice, med(+) length, a finish of blackcurrant and cigarettes, medium acid.
30% aged in big barrels.
Château de Saint-Cosme
Gigondas, 62% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 17% Mourvèdre, 1% Cinsault, 2008, 14.5%
Ruby colour. Light berry nose with medium intensity, bright fruit but still closed, light leather, strawberries and light pepper. On the palate, peppery and med(+) acidity + tannins, strawberry, med(+) length. There are Grenache flavours but the wine in general is very ungenerous. The berry finish is lacking a sort of firmness in the back. 2008 was not the best year for Gigondas but this varies from vigneron to vigneron.
St Joseph, 2007, 13%, €14.20
Semi-opaque ruby. The nose is beautiful cedar, lifted, lacquered fruit, beautiful furniture wood nose, spicy cinnamon, mushrooms, medium(+) intensity. On the palate, medium tannins and acid, bright redcurrants hit the front and then cedar, chocolate, vanilla, long length, a light cedar and chocolate finish, medium length.
From granite soils, 12 months in barrel that is 20% new, 40% 1 year old and 40% 2-3 year old. Nonfiltered. Vinified in St-Joseph but aged in Gigondas. It seems that the 05, 07 and 09 are good vintages overall.