The eastern outposts of the Southern Rhône between the river itself and the imposing edifice of the Dentelles de Montmirail have long been a hunting ground for lovers of full-bodied red wines that punch above their weight. In the eighteenth century, just as Hermitage was used to bolster Bordeaux in weaker vintages, so Gigondas was deployed to augment Burgundies that were lacking stuffing. That all changed with the introduction of the Appellation Contrôlée system in 1936, which prohibited cross-departmental blending, but the cognoscenti knew that there was value and quality to be found east of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. With soils of marl, sand and limestone at different elevations, relatively low rainfall and a long ripening season, vignerons in the hill towns of the Côtes du Rhône 'Méridionales' enjoy a broad palette of fruit from which to blend their wines. Furthermore, a clear hierarchy of classification from generic Côtes du Rhône up through Villages wines to the senior Crus (Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Rasteau et al.), means that there are wines to suit all pockets. The principal grape here is Grenache Noir which is blended with lesser volumes principally of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault to produce rich, earthy, warming reds of power and concentration but also much charm and finesse.
Based just outside Gigondas, with vine-holdings there (as well as in Rasteau, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Côtes-du-Rhône), Jean-Pierre Meffre and his son-in-law Christian-Yvès Carré de Lusançay produce consistently excellent wines at very reasonable prices at their Domaine Saint Gayan. Their flagship Gigondas 'Origine' is made from 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah and 5% Mourvèdre that is vinified in cement vats and raised in foudres and (300 litre) demi-muids and has a dark purple robe, briary bouquet and a full-bodied peppery palate that lends itself well to slow-cooked stews and daubes. It is widely regarded as being amongst the best in the appellation and has a framework of rugged tannins that sweeten and soften with up to 15 years bottle age, meaning it certainly benefits from decanting in its youth.
While located in Vacqueyras, Yves Chéron has vineyard holdings and négociant relationships with growers throughout the area but makes a 'Vieilles Vignes' Gigondas under his 'Grand Montmirail' label from his own fruit. A blend of 60% Grenache Noir, 30% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre, it is beautifully polished with rich herb and berry scents and flavours supported by supple tannins and fresh acidity that will see it age well for 5-10 years.