The first vintage to be bottled with the engraved bottle, the 2004 Cote Rotie Chateau d’Ampuis is a clean, classy, balanced and medium-bodied effort that gives up classic black fruits, pepper and smoke intermixed with notions of olive tapenade, underbrush and game. Beautifully complex, elegant and seamless, drink it over the coming 5 to 7 years. ||One of the reference point estates for top quality wines in the world today, the family run Guigal operation was created in 1946 by Etienne Guigal. Today, Etienne’s son, Marcel, and his son Philippe, are firmly in control here, and are without a doubt producing some of the most singular, sought after wines in the world. Due to the size of this tasting, I’ll keep my comments short, but the incredible quality coming from this operation is astounding, and a tasting here is always one of the highlights of any trip through the region. Furthermore, while a lot is said about the extended oak aging regime here, I don’t know anyone who tastes mature examples of these wines on a regular basis that still has any doubts about the genius going on here. In short, these single vineyard (and their blends as well) Cote Roties are some of the greatest wines money can buy. For this tasting (which, with the Guigals, is always a large one!), we focused on their Saint Joseph Vignes des Hospice release, and then three of their Cote Roties, starting with the classic Brune et Blonde, then the Chateau d’Ampuis, and finishing with their single vineyard La Mouline.||Looking first at their Saint Joseph Vignes des Hospices release, it comes all from the incredibly steep (and picturesque) vineyard perched just above the town of Tournon. The exposure here (which is critical for Saint Joseph as the more southern facing the plot, the warmer the site is) is mostly east facing and the soils are pure granite (identical to the decomposed granite found in the Les Bessards lieu-dit on Hermitage Hills). Compared to the Saint Joseph lieu-dit, which has a slightly more southern exposure, harvest here is always 5-7 days later.||Moving north to Côte Rôtie, the Guigal’s Brune et Blonde is their entry level release that comes from a mix of vineyards, most of which are estate. It drinks beautifully on release and has a solid 15-20 years of longevity in top vintages.||Stepping up over the Brune et Blonde, the Cote Rotie Chateau d’Ampuis is named after the Chateau d’Ampuis estate (which lies in the town of Ampuis, right up along the Rhone River, and was purchased by the Guigal’s in 1995) and is a blend of their top estate vineyards. Coming from La Garde, Le Clos, Grande-Plantee, Pommiere, Pavillon, Le Moulin and La Viria, it spends close to four years in new French oak (handled just like the single vineyard releases) and there’s roughly 30,000 bottles produced in each vintage. While the single vineyard releases get all the buzz, this is isn’t far behind in quality, especially in recent vintages, and can represent an incredible value.||We finished the tasting with a vertical of La Mouline. One of the three single vineyard Cote Roties produced, this cuvee comes all from the La Mouline lieu-dit that’s located in the more western (close to the middle actually) side of appellation. For simplicities sake, you could say it’s in the Cote Blonde part of the region, but in reality, Cote Rotie is much more complex and diverse. Due to its exposure, this vineyard is always the first of the three single vineyards to be harvest, and also contains some of the oldest vines on the estate. Fermented using pump overs (as opposed to punch downs for the La Torque and submersion cap on the La Landonne), it’s cofermented with varying degrees of Viognier, which in most vintages, ends up being around 10% of the blend. Like the Chateau d’Ampuis and the other two single vineyard releases, it sees close to four years in 100% new French oak, of which every trace integrates after a few years in bottle. It’s always the most approachable of the single vineyard releases, and is ready to drink at an earlier stage. For example, the 1999 La Mouline is gloriously mature, while the 1989 La Torque is still an infant. Nevertheless, as the 1978 reviewed here attests to, it has no problem evolving for decades (although I don’t recommend holding bottles that long). In short, this was a flight of Côte Rôties I’ll not forget anytime soon! eRobertParker.com.August, 2014
As Guigal says, the 2004 Cote Rotie Chateau d’Ampuis is “very Burgundian.” Forest floor, herb, underbrush, red currant, and sweet cherry notes dominate the aromatics and flavors of this medium-weight, peppery, slightly herbaceous wine. It has turned out to be outstanding, no easy task in a year with record-setting yields and many overly vegetal northern Rhones. This is a sexy, seductive 2004 to enjoy over the next 7-8 years.
While the entire world of wine knows how profound Guigal’s red wines are, they may not know that he continues to demonstrate a complete mastery of white wine varietals, from his lowly Cotes du Rhone blend of Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Clairette, and Bourboulenc, to his seriously-endowed dry whites from the northern Rhone. Over recent years, Guigal has been attempting to produce an interesting, fairly-priced, delicious Crozes-Hermitage. (The overall level of quality from this complex appellation is less than exciting.) Guigal is becoming one of the most important producers of high quality St.-Joseph. He fashions three cuvees, a general appellation offering, his St.-Joseph Lieu-Dit St.-Joseph, and the limited production Vignes de l’Hospice, which comes from high elevation, steeply terraced vines planted at the top of the small mountain that dominates the town of Tournon. Along with Chapoutier’s St.-Joseph Les Granits, Guigal’s Vignes de l’Hospice is one of the most profound wines of the appellation. It comes from a 5.5 acre parcel at the top of the small mountain that dominates the town of Tournon. The soils are decomposed granite with essentially the same soil base as the great vineyard of Hermitage across the river known as Les Bessards. One can argue that by producing the Cote Rotie Chateau d’Ampuis, Guigal is pulling some high quality material away from his Brune et Blonde, and it seems to me that only in the greatest vintages is the Brune et Blonde as consistent as it was in the past. That said, the Chateau d’Ampuis is superb. This cuvee comes from some of the top vineyards planted on the steep hillsides of Cote Rotie, such as Le Clos, La Grande Plantee, La Pommiere, Pavillon Rouge, Le Moulin, and Guigal’s most recent purchase, La Viria, which I suspect will become another single vineyard Cote Rotie in a few years. There are around 2,000 cases of this cuvee, and it is aged 30 or more months in 100% new oak. Guigal’s single vineyard Cote Roties are other-worldly in nearly every vintage. I have given these offerings more perfect scores than any other wines in the world. They represent three completely different expressions of Cote Rotie, and are made in limited quantities. There are about 1,000 cases of La Landonne, and 500-600 cases each of La Mouline and La Turque. La Mouline, which includes the highest percentage of co-fermented Viognier (11%), is always the more delicate, voluptuous wine with the most complex aromatics. La Turque is a denser, more gamy, meaty effort with approximately 7% Viognier co-fermented. It comes across as a completely different style of wine. La Landonne, which is grown in pure schist on the steep hillsides of the northern-most sector of the appellation, is 100% Syrah. It is the densest, most concentrated, masculine, and tannic of these three cuvees. Regardless of the vintage’s style and personality, La Mouline will always be the most flattering to drink young, followed by La Turque, and lastly by La Landonne. All three of these offerings are aged for a remarkably long, 42 month period in 100% new oak barrels (but they are never oaky), and are bottled unfined and unfiltered. They typically have 30+ years of longevity in top vintages. In short, they are singular expressions of greatness from spectacular vineyards that are brought to fruition with non-interventionalistic, creative yet distinctive winemaking. A re-visit to the 2004s has proven that Guigal’s long barrel aging can produce wines that are often better out of bottle than they were early in cask, a common occur