The classic-scoring 2016 vintage has put the Southern Rhône in the spotlight. And Gigondas has started to peek out from the shadows of its prestigious neighbor Châteauneuf-du-Pape as the appellation and its producers push quality forward. While the wines are certainly worthy of your attention, so is the village itself. Senior editor James Molesworth, our lead taster on the Rhône and a frequent visitor to the region, shares his favorite places in Gigondas to whet your whistle, dine and rest after a day of wine tasting and touring.
Hôtel Les Fleurets
Thierry and Dominique Bernard's roots run deep in this area. Thierry is a sixth-generation winemaker whose family established Domaine La Garrigue in Vacqueyras in 1850. Today, the couple runs this 15-room hotel, located just a five-minute drive from the village of Gigondas at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail. The charming rooms, with their nature-inflected decor, are located on the second floor above the restaurant as well as in the smaller house farther up the hill.
The restaurant offers à la carte and tasting-menu options. The well-priced wine list focuses on Gigondas and the Southern Rhône, with a few other French regions represented. The outdoor seating is a shaded oasis for summertime dining. As cicadas sing, enjoy Provençal comfort food with a touch of refinement, like skewered shrimp with avocado cream and piquillo peppers, or a fillet of cod over leeks and coriander broth.
Chef Laurent Deconinck is the former personal chef of the Perrin family, owners of Château de Beaucastel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The Perrins grew interested in Gigondas, purchasing a vineyard in 2008 and opening Restaurant L'Oustalet in 2009, with Deconinck heading the kitchen. Around the corner, Les Chambres L'Oustalet is the family's three-room hotel.
The restaurant is arguably the finest in the area. Deconinck's cooking is pristine and detailed, featuring classic Provençal flavors-think pintade fermière and asparagus. The wine list is deep in both local wines and those of other prominent French regions. Prices are very fair, with more than 80 different Gigondas selections for under $100 per bottle, alongside attractively priced high-end bottlings like the Méo-Camuzet Vosne-Romanée 2012 for $113.
The 30-seat dining room is elegant and calm, but the best seats are the 40 more that spill out onto the town's small main plaza under a canopy of plane trees, where guests are known to linger until late. L'Oustalet fills up quickly for lunch and dinner; reservations are highly recommended.
Nez Bar à Vins
Another Perrin-Deconinck project, this convivial wine bar opened in 2015 and sits just below Les Chambres L'Oustalet (if you stay at the hotel, this is where breakfast is served).
Nez is casual southern French at its best. The menu of tapas and small plates is listed on a chalkboard, including dishes like gazpacho, tuna fillets, charcuterie, cheese and other Provençal specialties. There's indoor and outdoor seating, and the crowd here grows quickly at night, with a mix of tourists refueling after a day's bicycle ride or hike and local vignerons.
Nez doubles as a wineshop brimming with the local wares, so there's plenty to order both by the glass and by the bottle. The staff couldn't be friendlier—you'll be hosted by the manager Fred, the sommelier Jean-Baptiste, servers Elodie and Charlaine, and Jérémy in the kitchen.