Saturday, April 29, 2017

Wine tasting at wonderful Domaine la Bouïssière and visit to beautiful Gigondas

Sablet is located between Séguret, a village classified as a "Plus Beaux Village de France," to the north and Gigondas, a small village renown for its red wine to the south. From the road, Gigondas seems little more than a cluster of stone houses set on a hillside with a church below the Dentelles de Montmirail Mountains overlooking vineyard covered slopes and valley below

Turn off the D-7 and follow the road up through the lower village; you will pass a succession of cafés and tasting rooms, before you arrive at Place Gabriel Andéol where the Mairie (Town Hall), and the Caveau du Gigondas (the wine growers cooperative), are located. You can taste most current releases of Gigondas wine at the cooperative free of charge and buy bottles to take with you for the same price as they are sold at the winery.


As most of you know, Shirley and I were partners in a now shuttered French restaurant called Bistro Des Copains in Occidental, California. One of the pleasures of that experience was tasting many new wines as we made selections for our excellent wine list. An early favorite was the Gigondas from Domaine de la Bouïssière.

When we first tasted the wine back in 2006 before the bistro opened, we knew nothing about the village of Gigondas, the vineyards where the grapes are grown or the Faravel family who make the wine at Domaine de la Bouïssière except for what we were told by the wine salesman.

That changed when we visited the area with our partners and some of our bistro team in February 2007 and tasted wines in the Domaine de la Bouïssière cave in Gigondas with the winemaker Thierry Faravel. There is something special about tasting wine where its made and seeing the vineyards where the grapes are grown.

We became instant fans and we have returned to taste the new vintages every year since. Sometimes, we go a second time with friends visiting us in Sablet. That's what we did a few weeks ago when friends Darlene, Bob, Gwen and Ed were visiting.

Shirley and our neighbors Darlene, Bob, Gwen and Ed outside the Domaine de la Bouïssière tasting room

One of the reasons we love to taste wine at the Domaine de la Bouïssière is we are in love with Geneviève Faravel who oversees the tasting room. It was her husband Antonin who in the late 1950s planted vines on steep land high above Gigondas just below the Dentelles de Montmirail. At first, he sold the grapes to Pierre Amadieu. Then in 1978 he started to make his own wine.

Antonin’s sons, winemakers Thierry and Giles Faravel oversee the vineyards and production of wines today. Giles oversees the vineyards and Thierry makes the wine. The grapes for their Gigondas wines come from vines planted between 1963 and 1966 on a large parcel and adjoining terraces below the Dentelles.

The family's Vacqueyras AOC vines sit on a plateau north of Vacqueyras and became part of Domaine de la Bouïssière in 2001 by way of Gile's wife who inherited the vineyards from her father. The Beaumes-de-Venise AOC bottling is a new addition to the family’s lineup, from older-vine vineyards purchased in the early 2000s near the town of Lafare, on the eastern slopes of the Dentelles de Montmirail.

The Faravels pick their grapes by hand and partially destem and lightly crush the grapes depending on the vintage. Fermentation on indigenous yeasts takes place in unlined cement tanks or stainless steel tanks; wines age in a combination of tank, larger foudre and barrel. Wines are bottled by gravity and are unfined and unfiltered.

Shirley and I and the family matriarch Geneviève Faravel

As I said, we love the maman of the family. She wears a constant smile and very energetic. You would not guess she is 83 years old. Don't bother to ask questions, she will explain everything without your asking. Hopefully, your French is good. We have been there enough times that she immediately recognizes us and asks how things are in Sablet.

Check out the array of wines in the picture below, especially the pricing. Look for these wines in retail shops and restaurants. You may find them. Unfortunately, they will be at least twice as much in the USA. But they are worth it and age great.

The wines produced by Domaine de la Bouïssière

After our tasting, we headed out to do a walk-about Gigondas. The pictures are some of the sights we saw. I should mention that the name Gigondas is of Roman origin. Jocunditas means great pleasure and enjoyment in Latin, with the town's origin and production of wine dating back to the Romans.

Pottery workshop on Rue de la Libération

Religion has played an important role in the history of Gigondas: no less than six churches were located in the village district in the 16th century. Today, the parish church Saint Catherine of Alexandria still stands, as well as the superb Romanesque chapel of Saint-Côsme et Saint-Damien, built in the 12th century, destroyed in the 16th century and restored in the 17th century that I told you about here and the chapel of Notre-Dame-des-Pallières.

Saint Catherine of Alexandria Church

Spring blossoms in Gigondas

A large, very old afternoon-only sundial is on the front of Saint Catherine of Alexandria church at the top of Gigondas village.

Gigondas Sundial

The original castle and its ramparts were built in the 13th or 14th century. From the beginning it was dedicated to the poor and the sick, serving as a distribution center for food and medical assistance for the needy. In 1678, Father Albert of the Order of Minims founded the Friary of Saint-Calvaire and Saint-Sépulcre hospice on the ground floor of the castle.

Gigondas defensive fortifications

Later, at the beginning of the 19th century, the hospice’s roof beams and tiles were sold to build the village wash house. The building was then neglected and fell into ruin. In 1984, the town hall took the initiative to restore the site and founded the non-profit organization "Gigondas d’Hier et d’Aujourd’hui" ("Gigondas of yesterday and today"), which became responsible for the restoration work carried out by local people.

Steps up to hospice constructed in 17th century

In 1971, Gigondas was designated as an AOC; previously it had been classified as Côtes du Rhône-Villages. There are 1202 hectares planted with vines within the Gigondas appellation. The wine produced is largely red (99%) with a small amount of rosé wine (1%) being produced. No white wine is produced with a Gigondas label.

Vineyards with a backdrop of the Gigondas defensive fortifications

The natural boundaries of the Gigondas wine appellation are the Dentelles de Montmirail mountains to the east, the River Ouvèze to the west, the mountain stream of Trignon on the border of Sablet to the north, and the hills extending from the Dentelles to the south.

Gigondas defensive fortifications

The Saint Catherine of Alexandria parish church with its central clock tower flanked by a campanile belfry seen below dates from the beginning of the 17th century. A hollow on the front façade shelters a statue of the Virgin Mary.


If you go to Gigondas, make sure you save time to stroll the pretty narrow streets lined with stone houses up to the parish church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. On the way, you can find pretty views out over the region and the vineyards of Gigondas and the surrounding communes.

Shirley, Darlene and Gwen at one of the several fountains in Gigondas

Shirley and friends in front of our rental "car"

Writing this post made me go to a nearby wine store and buy several bottles of Domaine la Bouïssière Gigondas wines. Decided I couldn't wait till we get to Sablet to pull out bottles from our cellar there. Cheers!


  1. The name "Dentelles de Montmirail" is magical.
    It's so great to meet the winemakers. Thanks for sharing this. On the to-do list!

  2. We love wine tasting, but I have to admit to not having done a lot in France. We were regulars to the the Cape wine estates when we lived in South Africa.
    Love French history and it never ceases to amaze me how old some of the buildings are here, and how did they ever build them without the equipment we have nowadays.
    Hope all is well. Have a good day Diane