Vignobles Yves Cheron Gigondas Domaine du Grand Montmirail 2014
Burgundian Yves Cheron graduated from the Lycée Viticole in Beaune in 1983 and headed south the following year to assume control of the family’s new domaine in the Southern Rhône. His father, Denis Cheron, saw the untapped potential in some of the region’s lesser-known appellations back in the early 1960s and left Burgundy to set up shop in this sun-baked sub-region of Provence. Denis purchased a production facility in Vacqueyras and began vinifying wines for several area growers. It wasn’t long before he had earned the trust and friendship of his client-vignerons. In 1982, one of them, the heirless owner of Grand Montmirail in Gigondas, decided to retire and gave Denis right of first refusal to buy his domaine in the appellation’s southeast sector.
Since taking over for his father, Yves has expanded the family’s vineyard holdings into neighboring Beaumes de Venise and Vacqueyras and now produces an impressive line of pure, elegantly-structured, Grenache-based reds without the rustic characteristics so common in wines from this region. All of the domaine’s vines are on gently-sloping hillsides at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail mountain range. Yves has also established long-term grape contracts with like-minded growers in Sarrians, Seguret and Violes for another 60 acres, which he uses for his Côtes du Rhône. Yves monitors each parcel and decides when to harvest. He then vinifies this excellent value red in the same manner as his Gigondas and Vacqueyras.
The Southern Rhône 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 sweet spice, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre form the base of the classic Rhône Red Blend, while Carignan, Cinsault and Counoise often come in to play. Though they originated from France’s southern Rhône Valley, with some creative interpretation, Rhône blends have also become popular in other countries. Somm Secret—Putting their own local spin on the Rhône Red Blend, those from Priorat often include Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In California, it is not uncommon to see Petite Sirah make an appearance.