Clos du Joncuas Gigondas 2016
Winegrowers: Dany and Carole Chastan
Grape: 80% Grenache with Mourvedre, Cinsault and Syrah
Deliver: June 2018
Today’s Clos du Joncuas Gigondas 2016 is a southern Rhone benchmark and absolute knockout from the celebrated 2016 vintage, which, as you probably know, was an ultra-ripe, powerful year across much of Europe. But the story of this wine is one of incredible balance above all else. So before you lump all Grenache based reds from the southern Rhone into the ultra-ripe, syrupy, over-the-top-fruit-bomb category, you must try this wine. Clos du Joncuas, which was founded in 1920 by Pierre Auguste Chastan, has always used natural, biodynamic farming methods and was certified organic in 1980, well ahead of its time. Now managed by sisters Dany and Carole Chastan, the estate produces outstanding wines that express a distinctive southern Rhone terroir from vineyards in Gigondas as well as in nearby Vacqueyras and Seguret. This is a resolutely traditional estate that uses methods little changed from a century ago; all vineyard work is done by hand including the harvesting of the grapes, whole clusters are trodden underfoot and are fermented with natural yeasts in concrete tanks, and the wines are aged in large old oak casks. Very little sulphur is added and the wines are never fined or filtered. Clos du Joncuas Gigondas 2016 is an authentic, ‘old school’ wine; complex, aromatic, intense and delicious. It is one of the purest expressions Gigondas has to offer – there is no mistaking where this wine is from – as it captures the terroir and beauty of the region in a bottle! This is a must-try for anyone who wants to know the true essence of Gigondas and values a genuine sense of place in their wine, and for $38 it is a no brainer.
Many people regard Gigondas, perhaps the best known of the ‘cru’ villages of the southern Rhone, as ‘the little brother’ or ‘a cheaper version’ of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. While it is true both villages produce Grenache based wines and the towns are less than 20 kilometers apart, they are distinctly different terroirs. The vineyards of Chateauneuf-du-Pape sit on low lying hills and alluvial plateaus, and their soils have high levels of sand and cobble (river rocks), whereas those of Gigondas are located at higher elevations in the foothills of the limestone rich Dentelles de Montmirail – a chain of shark-toothed mountains that overlook the town and shapes its wines. For close to 100 years one of the foremost interpreters of Gigondas terroir has been the highly regarded but not well known Chastan family of Clos du Joncuas.
Today’s Gigondas 2016 is the Chastan sisters – Dany and Carole – flagship bottling. It is the product of low yielding 90-year-old vines from the steep, terraced Gigondassien vineyard on soils of clay with dolomite and gypsum over limestone. 2016 was a near perfect vintage with most growers favouring it over the excellent 2015. Hot and dry conditions persisted through June and July but the heat was mitigated by cool nights, and though rainfall was less than normal, enough precipitation did arrive to prevent undue stress on the vines. This was followed by a cooler than usual August and harvest in September; these cooler temperatures helped to keep the wines fresh. The grapes were trodden underfoot (crushed) in the traditional way and whole clusters were fermented with natural, indigenous yeasts for 25 days. The wine was then aged for 12 months in large, old oak barrels. Although you can enjoy a bottle now, which I encourage for comparisons sake, I recommend patience to let the tannins smooth out a bit; in a couple years you will discover a wine of stunning depth, concentration, complexity and elegance.
Gigondas 2016 is deep purple and rich in both fruit and terroir. It has beautiful aromas of bright blackberry (neither raisined nor ‘cooked’), earth, baking spices and licorice, and on the palate it is intense with blackberry, garrique, leather, earth and mineral flavours with firm tannins and juicy acidity, all ending with a long finish. This is a beautifully structured, intense yet elegant and balanced wine. We are always pleased when we find a grower who can achieve aroma, power, finesse and elegant fruit in a wine. We applaud the Chastan family for continuing to craft their wines with a traditionalist approach and of this calibre. Pull the cork 30 minutes or so before serving and keep it cool, say around at 15˚or even less, then serve in large Burgundy stems – to capture the beautiful aromas – with some roasted wild boar. Yum!.