Producer: Kirkland Signature
Region: Gigondas, Rhône Valley, France
Grape(s): Grenache (85%), Syrah (10%), Mourvèdre (5%)
Tasting Notes: Dark cherry, raspberry, licorice, spice, black pepper
Pairings: Beef stew, Chinese-style spare ribs, tomato-based pastas
Price (approximately): $14.99
A mere 10 miles from the famed Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the village of Gigondas, an appellation d'origine contrôlée in the Rhône River Valley, extends from the plain east of the Ouvèze River up to the Dentelles de Montmirail, a wondrous tableau of jagged limestone hills. Wine production in the appellation can be traced back at least to the Roman era, when Gigondas was utilized as a respite for the Roman Legion. Even in ancient times, Southern France was the prime destination for drinking and frivolity. Party on!
Gigondas enjoys a cooler climate than its more famous neighbor due to higher altitude (in some cases up to 600 meters) and a steady Mistral wind that blows down the valley. The soils are more calcerous and consist of limestone and clay. This combination works brilliantly for the Grenache varietal, far and away the appellation’s most important grape. While Grenache commands the best locations, smaller percentages of the vineyards are also devoted to other classic Rhône varietals, such as Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Cinsaut. Consistently growing in quality and prestige, the rustic, powerful and spicy cuvées from this region can rival Châteauneuf-du-Pape at a fraction of the price. We are in bargain wine territory.
As I have previously mentioned, and will steadfastly preach, Kirkland wines do not customarily bestow significant depth or complexity, nor is that their primary intention. At the price they are offered, that would indeed be a lofty expectation. While the occasional Kirkland label can come with surprising quality, these wines are better understood as providing an affordable entry to many classic wine regions around the world. They are excellent for this purpose, so please explore! Keep in mind, however, that to experience the best of a region, you must journey beyond the Kirkland empire.
This wine is a great example. 2015 was an excellent vintage for Gigondas, with perfect September conditions that contributed to a long and steady growing season. A young wine, this bottle benefits greatly from decanting for an hour or more. Even with some patience, the wine opens with noticeable bitterness. Get past this initial bitterness, and the palate is greated with a classic Gigondas combination of black cherry, raspberry, plum, licorice, spice and black pepper on the finish. The tannins were pleasantly pronounced and firm, and the wine’s full body coated the palate. Can’t finish the bottle in one sitting? No worries; this wine was actually better the second day. The bitterness softens with time and matures into a raisinated taste on the palate. I realize Kirkland labels are not usually destined for the cellar, but this wine could use a few years to soften.
Overall, it is certainly not the most elegant or structured Gigondas I have tasted, but it presents the basic regional characteristics and can introduce the appellation to a wine seeker. Already a Gigondas enthusiast? This wine can probably be skipped or cellared for a few years.
Gigondas produces full-bodied wines with plenty of tannins, so foods must be similarly robust. No wimpy foods here. In Hawaii, this wine would be great with locally-style beef stew or Chinese spare ribs. The added spice and earthiness of the Syrah and Mourvèdre pair well with tomato-based pastas, beef bourguignon, red meat and game dishes, and hard or pungent cheeses.