David and I rolled into Gigondas mid-morning last June. First time for both of us. The sky was like a foreboding El Greco painting. Yet, as we ambled through this beautiful village, the sun shone. At least until the torrent started just as we were finishing our al fresco lunch.
The serenity of this village did not prepare us for the intensity of our appointment with Jean-Baptiste Meunier (JB) of Moulin de La Gardette. The man and the wines are profound and provocative. We learned as much about wine and winemaking as at any other visit.
JB is the perfect blend of scientist and artisan. He is a student of wine and he is passionate about his scholarship. He has deep respect for the environment, which is why his estate is certified organic.
Gigondas is 30 minutes northeast of Châteauneuf du Pape. It has less than half the land under vines, and - most importantly - it is at a higher elevation on the slope of the Dentelles de Montmirail. The altitude and dry climate (notwithstanding our downpour) force the roots to reach deep into the earth for water. Stressed roots produce grapes with more complex juice. Gigondas has been an AOC since 1971. For many, years it was considered Châteauneuf's little brother. No more, these are great wines in their own right and distinctly different. Plus, there are numerous high-quality producers like Moulin de La Gardette.