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Domaine La Bouissiere Gigondas 2015
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
This is mountain terroir, with cooler weather and demanding soils, a mix of limestone and clay. The family's Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre vines are mostly older (between 30 and 50 years) and are very low yielding. Because of the ideal conditions here, Thierry Faravel explained that they are the last domaine in Gigondas almost every vintage to start the harvest—the combination of exposure and altitude allows grapes to ripen slowly and evenly. What this means for the wine is more elegance and freshness, which is certainly what you'll discover in every one of the Faravels' unique mountain cuvées.
Thierry and Gilles grew up in Gigondas and learned much from their winemaking father, Antonin, who Thierry described as a “weekend winemaker.” While he worked at another domaine, Antonin would tend his family plots only on the weekends when he had free time. For almost two decades the family sold their fruit from these mountain plots, until they decided in 1979 to start bottling wines themselves.
Today, the Faravels are considered one of the leading artisan winemakers in Gigondas, if not in the whole southern Rhône valley. Since the late 80s, the family has been dedicated to organic farming, using organic fertilizers and as little sulfates as possible in their wines. “You have to respect the wine,” says Thierry, and this shows: harvest is always by hand, and wines are never pumped but led from tank to barrel via gravity. Vinification is always as natural as possible, each vintage dictating how the brothers handle each varietal through fermentation and aging. Wines are seldom fined or filtered—to quote Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, these wines are "vibrant" and utterly alive. Domaine la Bouïssiere wines, with their rich complexity and stunning freshness, definitely deserve serious real-estate in any serious cellar—10, 15 years is the norm for these impressive, long-lived cuvées.
North Berkeley Imports
The Southern Rhone region of Gigondas extends northwest from the notably jagged wall of mountains called the Dentelles di Montmirail, whose highest point climbs to about 2,600 feet. The region and its wines have much in common with the neighboring Chateauneuf-du-Pape except that the vineyards of Gigondas exist at higher elevation and its soils, comprised mainly of crumbled limestone from the Dentelles, often produce a more dense and robust Grenache-based red wine.
The region has a history of fine winemaking, extending back to Roman times. But by the 20th century, Gigondas was merely lumped into the less distinct zone of Côtes du Rhône Villages. However, it was first among these satellite villages to earn its own appellation, which occurred in 1971.
Gigondas reds must be between 50 to 100% Grenache with Syrah and Mourvèdre comprising the bulk of the remainder of the blend. They tend express rustic flavors and aromas of wild blackberry, raspberry, fig, plum, as well as juniper, dried herbs, anise, smoke and river rock. The best are bold but balanced, and finish with impressively sexy and velvety tannins.
The Gigondas appellation also produces rosé but no white wines.
With bold fruit flavors and accents of spice, Rhône red blends originated in France’s Southern Rhône valley and have become popular in Priorat, Washington, South Australia, and California’s Central Coast. In the Rhône itself, 19 grape varieties are permitted for use, but many of these blends, are based on Grenache and supported by Syrah and Mourvèdre, earning the nickname “GSM blends.” Côtes du Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape are perhaps the best-known outposts for these wines. Other varieties that may be found in Rhône blends include Carignan, Cinsault, and Counoise.
In the Glass
The taste profile of a Rhône blend will vary according to its individual components, as each variety brings something different to the glass. Grenache, which often forms the base of these blends, is the lightest in color but contributes plenty of ripe red fruit, a plush texture, and often high levels of alcohol. Syrah supplies darker fruit flavors, along with savory, spicy, and meaty notes. Mourvèdre is responsible for a floral perfume as well as body, tannin, and a healthy dose of color. New World examples will lie further along the fruit-forward end of the spectrum, while those from the Old World taste and smell much earthier, often with a “barnyard” character that is attractive to many fans of these wines.
Rhône red blends typically make for very food-friendly wines. Depending on the weight and alcohol level, these can work with a wide variety of meat-based dishes—they play equally well with beef, pork, duck, lamb, or game. With their high acidity, these wines are best-matched with salty or fatty foods, and can handle the acidity of tomato sauce in pizza or pasta. Braised beef cheeks, grilled lamb sausages, or roasted squab are all fine pairings.
Some regions like to put their own local spin on the Rhône red blend—for example, in Australia’s Barossa Valley, Shiraz is commonly blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to add structure, tannin, and a long finish. Grenache-based blends from Priorat often include Carignan (known locally as Cariñena) and Syrah, but also international varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In California, anything goes, and it is not uncommon to see Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, or even Tempranillo make an appearance.