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After 11 years of lobbying, winemakers in Gigondas will be able to produce white wines under its own appellation starting next year. The National Institute of Origin and Quality, the governing body that implements and controls procedures and identification of products made in France, has voted to include white wines in the Gigondas appellation, which is one of the prized viticultural locations in the southern Rhône Valley.
A group of growers and négociants pushed for the amendment to provide economic benefit to the region. They also insist that the region’s natural factors, such as climate, elevation and limestone-rich soils equally benefits white wines. White wines currently made from vineyards in Gigondas are marketed as Côtes du Rhône, a generic classification that doesn’t command the same premium price.
Winemakers argue Gigondas had enjoyed a long tradition of white wine production prior to its promotion to a cru appellation in 1971. Since the new appellation was granted only to red and rosé wine, primarily made with the grenache grape, many vineyards planted to white wine grapes were converted to red varieties. The loosened regulations are expected to stimulate plantings of white wine varieties as producers increase production of white Gigondas.
Gigondas is one of more than 360 appellations in France. The governing system regulates nearly every aspect of wine production, including grape varieties that may be utilized, minimum alcohol level, aging requirements, and in some cases, vineyard planting density. These rules were set to promote the best quality wines from a legally defined region while offering transparency to consumers about where the grapes were grown and an idea of how it was made.
As the system that was first established in the 1930s matures, the economic consequences of these rules and regulations frequently comes into question. For instance, the boundaries of Champagne, Chablis and other well-known wine producing areas have expanded over the years to match supply and demand for these signature products.
Winemakers in Gigondas hope to market white wines that command the same respect as their reds and roses. The region’s star white wine grape is clairette, a variety planted extensively throughout the Rhone Valley and in Languedoc, where it makes refreshing styles of light and appealing white and sparkling wines. White Gigondas must contain a minimum of 70 percent clairette. The new regulations allow a wide assortment of other varieties in the blend including regional grapes, such as grenache blanc, marsanne and roussane. The first releases of white Gigondas should reach consumers in 2024.