Not only famous for its world renowned vintage, Gigondas is also an exceptionally pretty village in the Ventoux region of Provence though it probably derived its name from the Latin ‘Jocunditas’ meaning ‘pleasing quality’ of which the wine certainly is! Perched on the slopes of the Dentelles de Montmirail and surrounded by lush vineyards, Gigondas makes quite the stopping point for a hike, cycle and a bottle of wine!
In Roman times
Gigondas was also a recreational ground for the veterans of the Second Legion, coming from the nearby town of Orange, and it is believed that it was they who planted the first vineyards. A Bacchus-head has been unearthed and Gallo-Roman vats have been found at the site of the St Cosme and Damien chapel.
What to see…
Gigondas is popular but not overflowing with tourists; there is plenty of space to park your car. Head up the little streets to the 11th century St Catherine parish church with its 14th century façade, Belfry, campanile and ancient sundial. The views from up here are marvellous –stretching out as far as the Cevennes.
Next to the church you will find some buildings that were built in 1678 by the brotherhood. They housed children and the poor then they were turned into a hospice in the 1800’s and now restored into a quirky art exhibition. 21 monumental sculptures by contemporary artists fill the upstairs while wine stewards fill your glass with punchy red’s downstairs.
A quick look at the medieval castle ruins and ramparts, that descend and run along the village to the east, and the only way to go now is back to the main street and try the wines…one by one, in each and every wine cellar.
‘I am always very relaxed when I open bottles of Gigondas…it’s a wine that calls for company’
Years before I moved to this region, we used to have ‘Gigondas evenings’ where each friend would bring their own bottle of Gigondas and we’d have a mock tasting to find our favourite. Come to Gigondas and you can tour the estates and cellars yourself to find your own personal pet wine.
12 km² of vineyards produce 5 million bottles of AOC red wine per year with the towering Dentelles de Montmirail as a backdrop. The rocks were pushed up some 200 million years ago from the sea bed reaching a height of 730m. They have since eroded into sharp spikes, lace (dentelles) as the locals call them or dinosaur teeth as my daughter calls them.
The Dentelles offer a limestone rich soil and a micro-climate of up and down drafts that moderate the temperature giving the wine subtlety, freshness, acidity and making it ideal for maturing in bottles lying down. Gigondas is grown on the slopes of the Dentelles as high as 600m giving vines varied orientation and sun exposure, especially prolonged shade in the morning which lengthens the ripening period and allows the Grenache variety more time to express themselves –which is just what they need.
To the eye, Gigondas is a ruby, deep garnet colour –enough to turn your tongue black after one glass. An aroma of red and black fruit and a distinctive, robust and full-bodied taste. Predominately made from the Grenache Noir variety, as it ages a hint of forest floor and truffle is released from the years growing from a complex terroir that yields prunes, figs, white pepper, garrigue herbs, thyme and liquorice.
Once upon a terroir, Gigondas grew olives aplenty but since two devastating frosts in 1929 and 1956 all the olive groves perished and since, the land has switched to single-crop farming-wine grapes!
Châteauneuf-de-Pape’s ‘little brother’ as they say…
Geographically very close but with a slightly warmer climate bringing the Grenache close to fortified strength in alcohol. Since 1971, Gigondas is an AOC wine, rather prestigious and benefits from 3-10 years in the cellar.
The Dentelles de Montmirail
Tip: Check hiking routes are open. They can be closed during droughts to avoid risk of forest fires.
By Car: There is a beautiful drive around the Dentelles, you can couple it with stopping off in the villages for a visit, wine tastings or lunch. From Gigondas pass through Sablet – Séguret – Vaison-la-Romaine – Crestet – Malaucene –Suzette – Beaume de Venise – Vacqueyras and back to Gigondas. Equally, you can take the drive the other way round depending on what time you want to stop off in a particular place.
By mountain bike or on foot: There are two places to access the Dentelles; from Gigondas and LaFare. The routes are indicated in both villages.
You can check out the hiking routes here.
For cycle trails, click here
There are two access points to Mont Ventoux; one at Malaucene the other at Bédoin.
Drive up to Mt Serein… During the summer, there are several hikes from here to discover flowers and birdlife, all with stunning views over to the Alps. For children, there are pony rides, inflatable games and trampolines. In the winter, this is the ski resort; small and inexpensive yet accessible to all. There are rental shops for sledges, skis, snowboards and racquets.
- Be physically fit, some training is required, otherwise rent an electric bike
- Check the weather. It can get very windy up there and hitting a storm would not be much fun either!
- Make sure you have decent equipment rent a bike or an electric bike in Bédoin. Click here for bike rentals in Malaucene
- Drink plenty of water as you go up
- Snack on energy rich food as you ascend
- Start early in the morning to make sure you have plenty of daylight yet avoiding the midday sun in the summer
Let’s hike it:
Find out more about Mont Ventoux here.
For something a bit different try:
Ventoux Aventure: Assault course in the trees and zip lining. There is a restaurant and a lake right on the doorstep for a picnic. Don’t forget the fishing net, bucket and spade. 30km. (Also great for fit adults).
Ventoux Vertical: Canyoning, rock climbing, river hiking, via cordata, via ferrata. 31.2km. (Also great for fit adults)
- 11th century St Catherine parish church
- Old hospice and art exhibition
- The castle and ramparts
- When you are ready to take the road up to the Dentelles de Montmirail, stop off at the Romanesque chapel of St Cosme and Damien
- Drive or cycle the beautiful wine route past the Dentelles de Montmirail. Stop off in wine cellars in these villages; Beaumes-de-Venise (12 km) – Vacqueyras (4.7 km) Sablet (4 km) – Séguret (6.7km) – Rasteau (11 km) – Cairanne (12km)…designated driver needed!
- Stunning views can be seen from Suzette also. Drive via Le Barroux or Malaucene…Explore!
Out and about checklist:
- Join the fun at the village fetes and wine festivals. You can find out the dates from the tourist office in Vaison
- Hike, Bike and zip-line on Mont Ventoux -famous for featuring often in the Tour de France. Start from the Malaucene side
- Kids love the Llama farm
- Go canyoning in the Gorges de Nesque
- Admire the Demoiselles Coiffées –Ochre fairy chimneys.
- Visit Le Barroux Castle. Combine it with the Medieval Festival if you are visiting in August
- Wander the streets, Roman ruins and the best Tuesday market in the region in the vibrant town of Vaison-la-Romaine.
- Hiking, cycling and rockclimbing in the Dentelles de Montmirail couple it with a visit to a wine cellar in Gigondas for an expert tasting (ask for Mathieu)
- Join an intensive wine and cooking course at the Domaine des Dentelles, or even organise your luxury stay there.
- Stock up on black truffles at the Carpentras Friday morning market
–Click here to find more activities to do with kids
Perched on hilside. Officially one of the most beautiful villages in France
Imposing Medieval castle
L’Oustalet, Gigondas. Michelin-starred, pricey with even pricer wines
Carré Gourmand, Gigondas
Coté Terrasse, Séguret. Stunning views
Bistro du ‘O. Set in an old barn of the castle in the upper town.
Auberge la Bartavelle. Long time popular restaurant. Local cuisine in Vaison centre
How to get there
Train: Avignon (45 mins)
Plane: Avignon (40 mins). Marseille (1:15)
Car: See map
Fancy renting a luxury villa in Gigondas?
Contact us for more details or have a look at some other beautiful villas to rent in Provence.