Gigondas Maintains Its Tempo
BY JOSH RAYNOLDS | FEBRUARY 21, 2020
Gigondas, like the
rest of the southern Rhône
Valley, experienced lows and highs, in that order, in 2017. The low points came
at the beginning of the year, when warm weather set off early flowering, and in
May, when shatter severely affected Grenache, resulting in significant crop loss
across the region. Fortunately, the remainder of the season was picture perfect,
if warm, while the quality of the crop was very high.
High-altitude vineyards in Gigondas, like at Domaine des Bosquets, provide optimal conditions for wines full of balance and freshness.
2017: To Have
and Have Not; To Have and Also To Hold
A mild winter got 2017
off to a fast start, which is always worrisome to growers in the region; they
know all too well that the frost window here extends until the end of April.
Those potential frosts were mostly dodged, but heavy rains, accompanied by
abnormally cold conditions in May, brought widespread coulure (shatter)
to the all-important and early-flowering Grenache. The unfortunate consequence
was significant crop loss, up to 50% in many sites. Many producers compensated
by leaning more heavily than usual on their Mourvèdre and Syrah, in particular, to make up for
diminished production, which means that the resulting wines can show more
cherry and/or dark berry character than in classic vintages. The greater
presence of Mourvèdre
and Syrah also gives the wines structure and grip to support the ripe fruit,
which, in my view, is quite welcome. The extroverted fruit that marks the best
wines will make the 2017s quite appealing on the young side, but it would be a
mistake to think that these are wines to drink up quickly.
Even Epic 2016s Continue to Make Their Case
sixteen has definitely secured a place in the pantheon of recent outstanding
vintages in Gigondas, as it has in all of the neighboring appellations. The marriage
of richness to energy and well-knit tannins has understandably made consumers
around the world huge fans of the wines. The now omnipresent coulure,
which wasn’t nearly as extensive as it would be in 2017, set the stage for a
somewhat smaller crop than average, and a warm to hot drought season made for
relatively small berries. That meant very good concentration and grape
skin-to-juice ratios that elevated the tannins, though not excessively. The
crop was smaller than growers would have preferred, but thanks to ideal
conditions that carried through a late harvest, the quality of the fruit was
superb. The wines show it.
At Domaine du Gour de Chaulé the Bonfils and Fumoso family make one of the most elegant wines in Gigondas.
Excellent 2018 Vintage Looms on The Horizon
Wines from the
potentially outstanding 2018 vintage are just beginning to be offered to the
trade, which, of course, means that they’re being pitched to consumers at
exactly the same time. At this early stage, 2018 looks like yet another in a
string of years that have delivered ripe, fleshy, fruit-driven wines with
plenty of upfront appeal. That said, so far at least, the 2018s are shaping up
to be more along the lines of 2016 than 2017, which may be splitting hairs. The
wines seem to have more obvious freshness than the 2017s at a similar stage, and
a bit more emphasis on red fruits and spice than their immediate siblings. They
do appear to be leaning to the rich, weighty side, but not to the extreme of,
say, 2007 or 2003. Maybe a richer version of 2009 is in the cards here. We’ll
see, but either way, 2018 should be yet another high-quality vintage in this winning
streak for Gigondas.
The ancient, hilltop village of Gigondas boasts dramatic vistas of the southern Rhône Valley.
Overheated Market and the Price of Success and Fame
As is the case
with every other world-class winegrowing region, the best, especially
small-production, wines of Gigondas continue to attract an ever-expanding
audience, which has quickly ratcheted prices upward and driven traditional
market allocations down. Long-time followers of these wines know they can
deliver quality that often matches their more famous neighbor, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Until
recently, pricing for all but the rarest handful of wines came nowhere near the
same level. That’s just not the case today, as a glance at current pricing for an
increasing number of Gigondas wines will affirm. But the fact is that in the
context of the world’s best wines, almost every Gigondas delivers solid and
even remarkable value, especially for those whose tastes run to the traditional
style. I would happily match up the finest wines in this report against plenty
of wines from both Old and New World regions that cost two or three times (or more)
more per bottle.
I tasted most of
these wines in the spring of 2019, in Gigondas, and many others in New York
through the winter of 2019–2020.
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The Riches and Richness of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Josh Raynolds, December 2019
2016 Gigondas – A Slam Dunk, Josh Raynolds, August 2018
2014 Gigondas Charms While 2015 Stuns, Josh Raynolds, September 2017