History of Gigondas
Gigondas is one of the of the famous wine regions in the Southern Rhône Valley in Southern France. Gigondas is also the name of a small village within the region located just next to the Dentelles de Montmirail Mountains. The village is very picturesque located in a beautiful hilly area surrounded by vineyards.
Most of the wine made in Gigondas is red wine, although there is also a small amount of rosé made as well. White wines are not allowed to be made within the AOC of Gigondas. According to appellation laws, both the red and rosé must be made mostly from Grenache, with Syrah and Mourvedre used as blending grapes. A few other other local varietals are allowed to be blended in small amounts. The Gigondas red wines are bold, ripe, and often high in alcohol with ripe fruit and spice flavors.
Gigondas wines are often considered secondary to their more-famous neighbor, Châteauneuf du Pape. This may have been the case decades ago, but recently quality levels have been greatly improved within the region, and now many wines from Gigondas are on par with Châteauneuf du Pape.
History of Gigondas Wines
The Romans were the first to bring wine to Gigondas, planting vineyards all around the Southern Rhône Valley region. The area of Gigondas was even used as a Roman settlement. Ruins still existing in the region attest to Roman life. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the tradition of vineyards and winemaking continued throughout the ages. Although the wine was not recognized as particularly special until much later.
During the Middle Ages the Catholic Church played an important role in this area. The Papacy moved to the nearby town of Avignon in 1308, greatly impacting the greater region. The second Avignon Pope, Pope John XXII was a great supporter of the local wine industry, and did much to improve the quality level of the wines here. The Papacy eventually moved back to Rome and this area became part of the Principality of Orange. Eventually, through succession lines the Dutch king ended up controlling the Principality of Orange. This made the area Protestant in the middle of a surrounding Catholic region when The French Wars of Religion broke out in 1562. As can be guessed this led to much destruction, hardship, and death as the region found themselves right in the middle of much of the fighting. Finally in 1598 the wars ended, allowing peace to take back over this area. Eventually in 1713, the Principality of Orange was transferred to the French king and this area became French.
The next big crisis to hit this area was in the late 19th century. A new grapevine disease had been discovered in Southern France. Eventually it was discovered to be Phylloxera, an aphid from the Eastern United States that attacked the roots of the grapevine. Phylloxera quickly spread to Rhône and Gigondas, killing many vineyards and threatening the wine industry. Many experts and scientists were brought to research this new disease and find a solution. The French government even offered a cash reward to anyone who could come up with a cure!
Finally, years after the start of the epidemic, a viable cure was found. Charles V. Riley, an entomologist in Missouri was the first to discover that European grapevines could be grafted on American grapevine roots. The American roots were already naturally resistant to Phylloxera, and could protect the European varieties. Slowly, the process of replanting vineyards began all over France, including Gigondas.
Many farmers in Gigondas, discouraged by Phylloxera, had already began planting olive trees as an alternative to vineyards. The production of olive oil is still a tradition in Gigondas to this day. However, two catastrophic frosts, one in 1929 and one in 1956 killed many of the old olive trees, which pushed farmers to return to planting vineyards again.
Gigondas is full of beautiful scenery and fantastic wines, making it an excellent tourist destination. The area is full of fascinating history and surrounded by many interesting cities. Just be sure to grab a glass of wine or take a winery tour to not miss out on the amazing wines Gigondas has to offer.