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Gigondas Steps Out of Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s Shadows: A Dozen Southern Rhône Producers Make The Case Gigondas 2021 & 2020 Ten-Bottle Pack For $399 + A Rhône With Substance, But No Pretense 12-Bottle ‘Cairanne’ Pack For $159 (Limited)

The long shadow cast by Châteauneuf-du-Pape over Southern Rhône is bit like Mount Doom’s shadow over Mordor, only with a bit more garrigue and spice. So synonymous has the powerhouse cru been with style and standing in the region that nearby appellations cannot escape comparisons—generally to the unfavorable side—and until recently, could not really compete.

As such, it is high time somebody challenged the CdP supremacy, and Gigondas seems the appellation best poised to make a clean break from its glossier embossed cousin.

It’s a struggle that began in 1971, when Gigondas became the first of the Côtes du Rhône Villages appellations to be elevated to Cru status. Gigondas vineyards are found along the base and slopes of the first Dentelles de Montmirail foothills, where the combination of limestone soils on the Montmirail slopes to the east, and rocky, sandy, free-draining soils on the flatter, lower-lying land to the north and west create an ideal terroir across a multitude of microclimates, each with its own distinct claim to fame.

Southern Rhône River Crus

The Rhône is generally divided into north and south; but they are by no means equal in either style or output. Whereas the north contains some heavy-hitting Crus (Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage, to name a couple), it only represents 5% of the Rhône’s total production. In Northern Rhône, the sole red wine grape allowed is Syrah.

The south, fanning out from both banks of the Rhône River, is not as Syrah-focused, relying on a cornucopia of other varieties—Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre and Cinsault for reds and for whites, Marsanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc, Clairette and Viognier, although many reds from the region—depending on AOP regulations—make use of white grapes in red wine blends to add floral highlights and soften harsh tannins.

The south is further divided into nine individual Crus—Beaumes des Venise, Cairanne (elevated in 2016), Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Tavel, Cairanne, Rasteau (changed in 2009), Vacqueyras and Vinsobres. Each has its own legion of fans, and each expresses the multiple terroirs of the south with individual interpretations: Tavel, of course, is known for its dry rosé, Vinsobres for it’s vividly acidic reds, Cairanne for its fleshy, Grenache-dominant quaffers, Lirac for its juicy, complex reds and fresh, floral whites. Southern Rhône’s most famous appellation, however, is Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and for good reason: These wines are impressively structured, deep in black fruits and spice with hints of roasting meats and occasionally a dash of funk; top examples run an equally impressive price tag.

Which brings us to Gigondas. Once referred to as ‘the poor man’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape’, quality improvements have been so striking over the past decade or so that it is high time we started thinking of it Châteauneuf-du-Pape affordable equal, perhaps ‘the smart man—and woman’s—Châteauneuf-du-Pape.’

Gigondas vineyards at the Dentelles de Montmirail foothills.

Geological map of the Dentelles de Montmirail formations. The town of Gigondas is in the middle. (Courtesy of Gargantuan Wine)

Gigondas, A Red That Takes You Into The Woods And To The Shore

Bastien Tardieu is the lead oenologist at family-operated négociant Tardieu-Laurent, which works with more than 100 growers throughout the Rhône Valley.

He’s also one of Gigondas’ most vocal flag-wavers: “Quality has improved immeasurably the last ten years,” he says. “Advances can be attributed to Cru appellations like Gigondas being held to the same restrictive regulations as Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Topography also plays a role: Gigondas, along with neighboring Vacqueyras and Beaumes de Venise, sits along the slopes of the Dentelles de Montmirail, the ragged limestone formation that towers above the Southern Rhône. The outcrops of the Dentelles protect against the morning sun and extend the growing season. Its altitude allows for a wide day-night temperature range that maintains acidity and balance in the grapes.”

The ideal Gigondas displays a bouquet evoking fresh forest berries, classic potpourri and botanical herbs that are complemented by exotic spice notes that build in the glass. The wine should stain the palate with intense raspberry, cherry cola and lavender pastille, flavors that steadily deepen with aeration.

Like most of Southern Rhône, Grenache is the appellation’s backbone, augmented by Mourvèdre and Syrah and—minus Carignan—a handful of other traditional Rhône varieties are ‘blend-approved.’

But the unique flavors of Gigondas extend beyond the familiar garrigue, which takes herbal hints from the nearby woodlands and native scrub bushes—wild thyme, sage, rosemary and lavender. According to Louis Barruol, owner of Château de Saint Cosme, a Gigondas estate that dates to the 15th century, “There is an unmistakable freshness about Gigondas wines—a quality that does not arise from altitude or acidity alone. It is a saltiness and minerality reminiscent of the sea.”

Gigondas 2021 & 2020: Ten-Bottle Package For $399

The producers featured in this week’s package (10 bottles 2021 and 2020 Gigndas, numbered below) are sensitive to the traditions of their appellation and the nuances of their terroir, and are convinced that a return to the herbal essence of Southern Rhône—something occasionally lost amid Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s pursuit of power and ultra-ripe fruitiness—should be their signature distinction.


Domaine de Font-Sane

As in much of modern Gigondas, especially among forward-looking producers, sustainable agriculture has become less an option and more a mandate. Such is the case at Domaine de Font-Sane, where Véronique Cunty-Peysson and her husband Bernard run the160-year-old estate.

“Fertilization is done every year by adding organic compost,” says Véronique. “These natural products help maintain the humus levels and promote good exchanges between the soil and the plant, and quality is always preferred over quantity.”

Having recently completed his Master’s degree in International Wine Business, their son Romain has joined the team and speaks to the unique quality of the 40 acre estate: “We have the advantage of a rich variety of soils boasting five unique terroirs—clay-limestone, pebbly, sandy, alluvium, sandy loam. The blending of these makes for a complete wine enriched by the multiple characteristics that each soil type gives.”

In 2020, Font-Sane obtained a new certification called HVE (High Environmental Value); this a program awarded to wineries who take a ‘lutte raisonnée’, or reasoned approach, from wine cultivation to bottling, by promoting environmentally friendly practices.

 1.  Domaine de Font-Sane ‘Tradition’, 2021 Gigondas ($25)
An exhuberant and youthful wine, full of fiery red fruit, savory complexity and fine-grained tannins. Three-quarters Grenache blended with around 25% Syrah and small amounts Mourvèdre and Cinsault, it’s big wine at 15% abv., but one which is quite well integrated and does not seem to need a lot of cellar time—drink to enjoy tonight.






Domaine des Pasquiers

“Provence is naturally a land of vine,” says Philippe Lambert, who along with his brother Jean-Claude and their children, Matthieu and Perrine, run des Pasquiers, founded by their grandfather in 1935. The sprawling estate, over 200 acres, stretches across multiple appellations including IGP Vaucluse, Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages ‘Plan de Dieu’, Côtes du Rhône Villages ‘Sablet’ and Gigondas.

“Our situation is at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail,” Jean-Claude explains, “where terraces of red clay are covered by pebble stones which reflects the sun’s heat at night and keep coolness during day. The slopes of Sablet are gentle and the sandy soil and gravel brings finesse and mineral qualities to the wine. Finally, Gigondas, where the soil, combination of the Secondary to the Quaternary Periods, produces structured and unique terroirs for very complex wines.”

 2.  Domaine de des Pasquiers, 2020 Gigondas ($30)
50% Syrah and 50% Grenache, with a pure Provençal style replete with blackberries, sandalwood, garrigue and white pepper. Tannins are ripe and the acids striking, but both are beautifully integrated into the flesh of the wine and create a backbone that suits both early drinking and long-term cellaring.







Pierre Amadieu

Amadieu family roots have been digging into Gigondas soils for nearly a hundred years, but with each new generation comes a new focus.

For Pierre Amadieu Jr. it is paramount to improve wine quality every year: “We look for elegance, length on the palate and a ‘Burgundy’ freshness in our wines. A careful parcel selection allows us today to elaborate different cuvées of Gigondas which express each of our exceptional terroirs in its own way.”

The family affair includes three of his cousins: Henri-Claude, the eldest son of Claude and Muriel, who heads the sales department, his brother Jean-Marie—an agricultural engineer and oenologist, who works closely with Pierre in the winery, and their sister Marie who caters to their private customers. With production at over 50,000 cases annually, there is work enough to go around.

The Amadieu situation inspires a bit of eno-envy. It is located on north/northwest-facing hillsides in the north-east Gigondas where altitudes range from 750 and 1600 feet. With 338 acres surrounded by garrigue and holm oaks, Amadieu is the largest landowner in the appellation.

Strolling the vineyard, Claude Amadieu waxes philosophically on these beautiful acres: “Our exposure gives a perfect aeration to vines and avoids an excessive period of sunshine in full summer. It brings our wines freshness and allows long maturation without risking drought or bitterness. The expression of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault (for rosé) and Clairette (for white wine) on these terroirs among the highest of the appellation, is very personalized—our wines are powerfully spiced.”

 3.  Pierre Amadieu ‘Romane Machotte’, 2021 Gigondas ($31)
80% Grenache, 20% Syrah from 45-year-old vines grown on hillside terroirs of limestone and marl. An expressive wine with blackberry, boysenberry and smoked plum notes laced with violet and white pepper on the nose while the palate shows dusty earth, sweet tobacco and charred mesquite.






 4.  Domaine Grand Romane ‘Cuvée Prestige – Vieilles Vignes’, 2021 Gigondas ($36)
65% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre, 15% Syrah. Domaine Grand Romane is a unique vineyard located on the highest part of Amadieu estate, 1600 feet above sea level, where the pebbly limestone terroir is poor and forces the vines to put down deep roots. Black fruits and cinnamon appear in the bouquet, and the silken mouthfeel is washed with generous creamy berries, pepper and vanilla with a long finish showing flavors of grilled meat.




Domaine Saint-Damien

With well over a hundred acres spread between Gigondas, Plan de Dieu, Côtes-du-Rhône Villages appellations, IGP and Vin de France, the terroir at Saint-Damien is varied. But in Gigondas, the focus is on plot specific sites, including the lieux-dits Gravas, Pigieres, La Louisiane, Les Souteyrades and La Moutte.

Joël Saurel, along with his wife Amie and winemaking son Romain, runs the estate in its modern incarnation, but the Saurel family had been tending vineyards her since 1821, selling to négociants. Joël began producing wine in 1996, and in 2012, the vineyards were certified by Agriculture Biologique.

Gigondas remains the flagship of the estate; Romain says of the family’s Gigondas acres: “Most of the vines are quite old and cropped low. The wines are aged in large, traditional concrete vats and old foudres and usually bottled on the young side to preserve freshness.”

 5.  Domaine Saint-Damien ‘Vieilles Vignes’, 2021 Gigondas ($41)
80% Grenache planted in 1964, 20% Mourvèdre planted in 1977 in several lieux-dits located on the lower terraces of the Dentelles de Montmirail. The grapes are hand-harvested and fermented on skins in large concrete vats for five weeks before ageing another year in old foudres. The wine shows a touch of cedary oak on the nose alongside the black cherries and subtle garrigue notes ending in a gentle wash of dusty tannins and a hint of licorice.





Domaine des Florets

Jerome Boudier has owned the 20-acre Domaine des Florets since 2007—and he followed a circuitous path to get there. After advising CAC companies for 25 years on environmental protection and sustainable development, he wanted to launch a second career in direct contact with nature and make wine by integrating sustainable development concepts into the art of vinification.

He is almost zen in his approach: “In winemaking, as in all pursuits in life, there are no ready-made solutions. We must constantly seek the right balance and identify the necessary compromises to build a sustainable and benevolent model. My mission goes far beyond making good wine, but it must also be well-made wine that honors sacred nature.”

In the field, he puts this philosophy into practice by choosing an environment favorable to species beyond grape vines, developing the rich biodiversity inherent in terroir. He has nice spot with which to work—the top of the Dentelles de Montmirail at an altitude of 1650 feet, on steep terrain protected by high limestone rocks.

The same deep thinking attends Boudier in the cellar: “Throughout the winery, I strive to limit inputs and limit consumption as much as possible. Beyond the water and biodiversity aspects, a low-carbon and eco-responsible approach is favored from planting to packaging. We have a duty to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions through our practices and the carbon storage capacity of our soils.”

 6.  Domaine des Florets ‘Synchronicité’, 2020 Gigondas ($53)
From a mountaintop vineyard, the grapes (95% Grenache and 5% Syrah) undergo a gentle cold maceration, and a two-to-three-week long vatting punctuated by pigéage, following which the wine is aged for a year in oak. It shows crushed red fruit up front—strawberries, raspberries and pomegranate—and then with aeration, savory notes appear as subtle cocoa powder and pie spice.





Domaine Raspail-Ay

Aÿ is a name irrevocably linked to Champagne; remove the umlaut and the story becomes Gigondas. Domaine Raspail-Ay is run by single-minded producer Dominique Ay, whose portfolio is limited to a single bottling of Gigondas—no more than 6000 cases annually—and a handful of rosés, consistently rated among the most iconic wines of the region.

Ay’s are traditionally produced wines; classical blends given classical treatments in concrete vats and aged in large oak foudres. With the imposing rock formations of the Dentelles de Montmirail (the last outcrop of the mighty Alpine chain) looming as a backdrop, this estate represents the embodiment of the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

His plantings are 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre, all on the plain in front of the quaint village of Gigondas; old vines and limited yields are responsible for naturally high level of ripeness and concentration.

Ay describes the process after harvest: “We destem entirely and ferment in cement vats, filling each with a mix of the three varieties as they ripen during the harvest, keeping track of what parcels and varieties wind up in each vat with a small chalkboard on the wall. There’s a modest single pump-over per day, some pigéage before the vats settle on their own. The assemblage is done soon after malo, and the wine is then racked off into a range of large foudres and some demi-muids as well as a portion that remains in cement.”

In the last several years, as the domain achieves near cult-like status, Dominque’s son Christophe and daughter Anne-Sophie have joined him in the endeavor.

 7.  Domaine Raspail-Ay, 2020 Gigondas ($51)
The 2020 vintage produced many superlative wines, and this is one of them: 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre, destemmed and aged in concrete vats, 600-liter oak casks and large, neutral foudres, it offers upfront notes black raspberry, kirsch, and garrigue mingled with exotic spices and subtle hints of violet.






Domaine de Cabasse

The three-star hotel at Domaine de Cabasse, housed within a traditional Provençal ‘mas,’ may garner more press, but the working winery’s 90 acres of vines (30 of which surround the hotel) produce world class Gigondas. The name Cabasse comes from the Italian ‘Casa Bassa,’ meaning ‘the house under the village’—a reference to the14th century when the pope used to live in Avignon.

In 1991, the Haeni family, originally from Switzerland, acquired the domain to focus on the vineyard, their true passion. It is currently run by the gregarious Benoît Baudry and his wife Anne.

Branching beyond Gigondas into Séguret and Sablet and Gigondas, the varietal selection covers the gamut of Southern Rhône standbys—Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Counoise, Carignan, Clairette along with a host white grape varieties, which Cabasse bottles as Côtes-du-Rhône Villages appellation. The plots are not overly large and are surrounded by hedges and trees that protect the vines from the cold mistral which can blow violently from the north. The soils are mainly composed of weathered limestone with varying clay, sand and stone.

 8.  Domaine de Cabasse ‘Jucunditas’, 2020 Gigondas ($51)
A traditional blend of 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, and 10% Mourvèdre; red cherry syrup and raspberry compote appear up front in both aroma and palate, with blackberry, plum, and pepper rounding out a long finish that whispers garrigue.







Domaine Les Pallières

Woven into the foothills of the brooding Dentelles de Montmirail, Les Pallières has been a force in Gigondas requiring reckoning since the fifteenth century. And up until the end of the last century, it was in the hands of the same family.

In 1998, Daniel and Frédéric Brunier of Vieux Télégraphe were convinced to take a shot at reviving Les Pallières from a couple decades of neglect, and the Pallières’ renaissance soon followed. The raw material was superb, with vineyards ranging from a few hundred feet to over one thousand in altitude, with varying proportions of sand and clay interwoven with limestone scree that has descended from the Dentelles. Among the improvements seen to immediately were reinforced terraces to allow for better water retention and a new winery building capable of receiving harvested parcels individually in gravity-fed tanks. The many lieux-dits, once blended into a single cuvée, have been separated into two in an effort to best express two remarkable personalities. Cuvée ‘Terrasse du Diable,’ encompasses the low-yielding vines from the higher altitudes while Cuvée ‘Les Racines’ highlights the vineyard parcels surrounding the winery—the origin of the domaine with the oldest vines—with the emphasis on freshness and extravagant cornucopian fruit.

 9.  Domaine Les Pallières ‘Les Racines’, 2021 Gigondas ($58)
Les Racines is a parcel-selection of the oldest vines in the lieu-dit Les Pallières. 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah and Cinsault (co-planted) and 5% Clairette; the palate is high-toned and elegant, lush with black cherries, garrigue, olives and crushed stones.






 10.  Domaine Les Pallières ‘Terrasse du Diable’, 2021 Gigondas ($53)
90% Grenache, 5% Mourvèdre, 5% Clairette from a 25-acre vineyard site of red sandy clay, limestone and scree—vines average 45-years-old. A very representative array of Provençal high-notes, plum, cherry and forest berries wreathed in black olive, licorice, mint, eucalyptus and rosemary.





Domaine Les Pallières ‘Terrasse du Diable’, 2018 Gigondas ($58)
90% Grenache, 5% Mourvèdre, 5% Clairette. A blend of rustic elegance, with elements of smokey plum near the surface and chalky tannins beneath the surface.








Domaine Santa Duc

At Santa Duc, in the verdant environs of Gigondas, heritage is as deep as the iron-rich soils. Six generations have leapfrogged each other as caretakers of the storybook estate at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail hills and each has brought to the party a unique respect for terroir and tradition. Yves Gras, Domaine Santa Duc’s winemaker for 32 years, became a standard bearer for innovation with his elegant wines; he replaced barrels with 3600-liter casks to tone down the oak and championed a greater percentage of Mourvèdre used in cuvées. His ongoing quest for cooler terroirs capable of producing great wines ultimately took him from the plateau of Gigondas to Châteauneuf-du-Pape (10 miles to the southwest), where he was able to purchase several choice parcels.

With the 2017 vintage, Yves’ son Benjamin Gras took over the domain and quickly proved himself to be as much a visionary as his father, switching immediately to biodynamic agriculture and building a state-of-the-art winemaking facility on the property. Benjamin has the passion, the Gras DNA, but also the educational pedigree to buoy his future: After obtaining a diploma in oenology at the University of Bourgogne in Dijon, he spent time at Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Bodega Vega-Sicilia, and the OIV MSc in Wine Management program gave him the unprecedented opportunity to visit more than two dozen wine producing countries and study their techniques, their terroirs, and their traditions.

Domaine Santa Duc ‘Clos Derrière Vieille’, 2018 Gigondas ($57)
An iron butterfly, with both weight and lyrical lightness from the limestone-rich clos behind the village of Gigondas; 80% Grenache and 10% each Mourvèdre and Syrah, the wine is resinous with orange peel, pomegranate and raspberry. smoked garrigue, fresh thyme and lavender.






Domaine Santa Duc ‘Les Hautes Garrigues’, 2018 Gigondas ($73)
50% Grenache, 50% Mourvèdre—this is Santa Duc’s flagship, a biodynamic gem sourced from 75-year-old vines planted on the sandy soils of the Les Hautes Garrigues lieu dit. It offers a brilliant bouquet of ripe wild strawberries, dried plums, blueberries, ground pepper, garrigue and sweet leather with a long, mineral-driven finish.





The Pinnacle


Domaine des Bosquets

“Since Julien Brechet took control of his family’s 64-acre estate in 2006, Domaine des Bosquets has been moving steadily up the Gigondas hierarchy, and in 2016 they produced not only some of the best wines of the appellation but of the entire southern Rhône.”

That song of praise, well-deserved, is from Antonio Galloni’s widely read ‘Vinous’ and reflects the spirit of the Domaine des Bosquets estate. Prior to taking over, Julien Brechet apprenticed at Château de Vaudieu under Philippe Cambie, and at Bosquets, he begun to map out his terroirs through careful studies and micro-vinifications. Rather than rob his Villages-level Gigondas of its best parts, his parcel wines are only made in limited quantities. Among the lieux-dits Julien farms are Jasio, La Colline, Le Plateau, Les Bosquets, Roche, Les Routes, and Les Blânches, where the planting principal grape variety is Grenache (70%), with 20% Syrah, 8% Mourvèdre, and 2% Cinsault with tiny percentages of other permitted varieties, both red and white.

His estate is now certified organic, a process he started in 2015, and he’s begun implementing biodynamically practices. Cover crops are encouraged and are plowed under to provide nutrients to the soils and ensure the vines penetrate deep into the subsoil. The average age of his vines is 50 years, and the soils range from sand to various gravels and types of clay – some with high levels of chalk. Average yields are 23 hl/ha for vines destined for the village Gigondas, while it drops down to as low as 15 hl/ha for some of the parcel wines. Harvests are manual to ensure a strict selection of fruit, and fermentations are now entirely with indigenous yeasts.

With these farming changes, Julien has noticed better stem maturation at harvest and uses up to 30% whole clusters. His Gigondas wines are aged for two winters in French oak barrels ranging in size from 228 liter to 2300 liter. He prefers seasoned barrels to new and ages his parcel wines entirely in neutral French oak.

Domaine des Bosquets ‘Le Regard Loin’, 2020 Gigondas ($288)
The culmination of Julien Brechet process of strict selection and micro-cuvée blending fruit from La Colline, Le Plateau, Les Routes, and Les Roches lieux-dits. 70% Grenache with 20% Syrah, 8% Mourvèdre and 2% Cinsault with tiny percentages of other permitted varieties, both red and white, the wine spends 12 months in second-fill oak barrels before blending, then another 12 months in sandstone amphorae before bottling. A nice mix of black raspberries, blueberries, licorice, and herbes de Provence.





Cru ‘Cairanne’: The Birth Of A New Cru In Southern Rhône

Cairanne picked up Cru status in 2016, and with the stroke of that bureaucratic pen, no longer had to label itself a Côtes du Rhône Villages. Found east of Orange, the soils of Cairanne are predominantly built of alluvial limestone from several local rivers and streams; red, iron-rich earth over sandstone bedrock is also found throughout the appellation. Topography ranges from the glacial plateau to the south of the town to the slopes of the Dentelles de Montmirail foothills to the north and west.

“This new appellation status was only made possible thanks to the passion, determination and high expectations of a bunch of local enthusiasts,” says Denis Alary, president of the local winegrowers syndicate, told Wine Spectator. “No decision could better illustrate Côtes du Rhône-Villages dynamism.”

Cairanne is often called ‘the gateway to the Southern Rhône’, combining the typically northern Syrah grape with the much heat-loving Grenache and Mourvèdre. The Mediterranean is dry with plenty of sunshine, and most importantly, vineyard health is heavily influenced by the Mistral wind.


Domaine Alary
Cru Cairanne

Denis Alary of Domaine Alary considers himself a perfectionist as well as a grand idealist; his seventy acres of vineyard, entirely in Cairanne, is where he goes to relieve the stress that accompanies the loftiness of his ambitions …

“Alone,” he says: “Without a cell phone.”

As he took over the estate from his father Daniel, the oenologist is now passing responsibility to his son Jean-Étienne who brings an international reputation to this dry, dusty corner of France, having vinified at New Zealand’s Seresin, Australia’s Henschke and in France at Confuron-Cotetidot in Burgundy.

Domaine Alary ‘Vieilles Vignes’, 2020 Cairanne ($23)
From old vines grown on the terraces of the Dentelles de Montmirail; grapes are hand-harvested separately, sorted and a separate vinification of each different grape variety is made. Bottled without fining, the wine shows profusion of black fruit flavors and soft spices on the nose and a rich full-bodied palate sustained by a mineral touch.





A Rhône With Substance, But No Pretense: Buy A Dozen For $159

Cave de Cairanne Chantecôtes ‘Les Terres Vierges’, 2019 Côtes du Rhône (A Dozen for $159)
First, the difference between a ‘cave’ and a ‘domaine’: Created in 1929, the Vaucluse-based Cave de Cairanne is a collective of 65 winemakers who work over 1300 acres of vines in the Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages, Villages Plan de Dieu, Cru Cairanne and Cru Rasteau. Chantecôtes is located in Sainte Cécile Les Vignes; the wine is 50% Grenache, 40% Mourvèdre, 10% Syrah showing macerated raspberries, a round and racy palate filled with spice and smoke.



Southern Rhône Vintage Journal

2021 – Classic and Fresh

After six blessed harvests in a row, 2021 brought earth back to earth: Temperatures were unpredictable throughout the growing season, without heat spikes, and random thunderstorms later in July served to test vignerons, including a torrential downpour in mid-September right at harvest-time. Early-budders like Syrah, having been jeopardized by spring frost and the late-ripening grapes also found themselves under threat. Despite this, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, and Carignan fared well, while the quality of Grenache was mixed, some of it (almost unaccountably) particularly good. The best of 2021 wines focus on red rather than black fruit, on lean but elegant tannins rather than any attempts to overcompensate with an ambitious extraction regime or indulgent use of oak.

2020 – Silky and Tender

Fingers were crossed after a brief frost followed an early bud-break, but damage was light; flowering began in mid-May, two weeks earlier than 2019. Amenable conditions continued with hot weather from June, July and August, with the Mistral causing a bit of early damage, but ultimately breathed freshness over the vines all summer. A period of drought culminated in temperatures that peaked at 107°F on August 1. As might be expected, harvest came early, and overall, 2020 will be remembered as one of Southern Rhône’s finest. Sophie Armenier of Domaine de Marcoux (Châteauneuf-du-Pape) comments, “The maturity, the degrees of ripeness, the quantity and the sunshine—everything just came together!”

2019 – Rich and Balanced

Southern Rhône kept a nervous eye on heavy winter rains but in spring, precipitation remained at normal levels. The Mistral, which had been disquietingly calm in ’18, blew strongly in January and February, drying the leaves and removing concerns about mildew. Pleasant weather graced both March and April, the Mistral came back with a vengeance at the beginning of May, resulting in a few damaged leaves but otherwise aerating the vineyards and keeping the vines healthy. An even flowering in late May followed by a successful fruit set in June suggested, much to the growers’ relief, a vintage where yields would be normal. Then came the heatwave, with temperatures as high as 111°F in June, without much nighttime respite. With the lack of rain, this might have proved disastrous but for the high winter rainfall which had filled underground water reserves.

2019 is considered a heat-wave vintage in the Southern Rhône. Those who managed the vines correctly during the excess temperatures of the summer made superlative wines since the hot and dry conditions resulted in small berries with intensity and—crucially—freshness, thanks to the concentration of the grapes’ natural acidity. Growers who worked organically and biodynamically did especially well in ’19, as their vines are so well adapted to manage nature’s whims.

2018 – Supple and Perfumed

2018—largely remarkable throughout France—was hit and miss in Southern Rhône. Although the winter and spring were wet and mild and further rainfall in June caused difficulties with mildew throughout Southern Rhône. Producers sprayed, but a large amount of the crop was still lost, and Grenache, the south’s mainstay grape, is particularly prone to rot and the result was devastating. Winemakers who typically used Grenache as a dominant component of their blends had to shift the focus onto others, chiefly Mourvèdre. Eventually, the damp weather dried up and a hot, dry summer took its place, and by the time it came to harvest, temperatures were high and producers had to work quickly when managing the grapes.

The wines tended to be more densely concentrated than typical with strong fruit flavors and structure. The reds of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Vacqueyras and Gigondas were especially good. The whites suffered slightly from low acidity but still had good fruit character and are generally best suited for early drinking.




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Posted on 2024.03.05 in Gigondas, Cairanne, Côtes-du-Rhône, France, Wine-Aid Packages, Southern Rhone


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Aglianico, Albarino, Albarín Blanco, Albarín Tinto, Albillo, Aleatico, Arbanne, Aubun, Barbarossa, barbera, Beaune, Biancu Gentile, bourboulenc, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Caino, Caladoc, Calvi, Carcajolu-Neru, Carignan, Chablis, Chardonnay, Chasselas, Clairette, Corvina, Cot, Counoise, Erbamat, Ferrol, Fiano, Frappato, Friulano, Fromenteau, Fumin, Garnacha, Gewurztraminer, Godello, Graciano, Grenache, Grolleau, Groppello, Juan Garcia, Lambrusco, Loureira, Macabeo, Macabou, Malvasia, Malvasia Nera, Marsanne, Marselan, Marzemino, Melon de Bourgogne, Merlot, Mondeuse, Montanaccia, Montepulciano, Morescola, Morescono, Moscatell, Muscadelle, Muscat, Natural, Nero d'Avola, Parellada, Patrimonio, Petit Meslier, Petit Verdot, Pineau d'Aunis, Pinot Auxerrois, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Poulsard, Prieto Picudo, Rondinella, Rousanne, Roussanne, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Savignin, Semillon, Souson, Sparkling, Sumoll, Sylvaner, Syrah, Tannat, Tempranillo, Trebbiano, Trebbiano Valtenesi, Treixadura, Trousseau, Ugni Blanc, vaccarèse, Verdicchio, Vermentino, Viognier, Viura, Xarel-lo

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