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Average critic rating : 97.0 points
The 2007 Cote Rotie La Turque’s inky/blue/purple color is followed by aromas of asphalt, charcoal, graphite, barbecue smoke, roasted meats/aged beef, blackberries, cassis and violets. With huge body, massive concentration, silky tannins, sweet glycerin and a layered, multidimensional mouthfeel, it can be drunk now or cellared for 25 years. ||The following paragraph is taken from issue #193, but I believe it is so important to understand the Guigal philosophy that I am repeating it verbatim. “As I have written many times before, no one in the wine world is better at ‘raising’ a wine (or as the French call it elevage) than Marcel Guigal, who learned the skills from his father, Etienne. Because everyone tends to focus on vintage conditions and terroir, the importance of a wine’s elevage is often overlooked, but Guigal’s unusually long tank, foudre and small barrel aging regime for all his red wines as well as several of his whites results in an array of remarkable wines time and time again. Even the most challenging vintages, which often taste under-nourished, vegetal and thin in their first year or two of life, tend to take on concentration and character, turning out to be some of the finest wines in many of the most difficult Rhone vintages. Moreover, Guigal’s wines always taste better out of bottle than from barrel, which speaks to his honesty and integrity as well as to his brilliance in deciding how long to age a wine in wood or tank, as well as choosing the perfect moment to bottle it. None of this is as simple as it might sound, and that’s why Marcel Guigal gets my vote as the reigning genius in terms of the upbringing of his wines.” Crozes-Hermitage has become one of the Guigal “go-to” wines for value hunters and he has raised the level of this humble appellation dramatically with his recent efforts. Cote Rotie was what made Marcel Guigal and his father, Etienne, famous. The Guigals are the largest landholders in Cote Rotie and produce 35-40% of this hallowed appellation’s production. Five cuvees are produced in every vintage, the three single vineyard offerings, the Chateau d’Ampuis (a blend of top sites aged 38 months in 100% new French oak casks), and their largest production offering, the Brune et Blonde (which is aged in small barrels and usually co-fermented with 3-5% Viognier depending on the vintage). Along with Michel Chapoutier’s St.-Joseph Les Granits, Guigal’s St.-Joseph Vignes de l’Hospice is the top wine of the appellation. Guigal purchased this 8-acre parcel of steep hillside vines from Grippat. Aged 30 months in 100% new oak, this wine is extraordinary. Guigal claims the soil is reminiscent of Les Bessards Vineyard in Hermitage Over the last decade, Guigal has dramatically increased his vineyard holdings in Hermitage, purchasing the estates of Jean-Louis Grippat as well as the Hermitage holdings of De Vallouit. He now has parcels in such famed vineyards as Le Meal, Les Beaumes, Les Bessards and Dionnieres. Guigal’s basic red Hermitage (which has been made for over five decades) is generally aged for more than three years in small casks, of which about 45% are new. In exceptional vintages, Guigal will cull out a special cuvee called Ex-Voto, which is aged 42 months in 100% new French oak. One thousand cases are usually made from three separate vineyards (40% from Les Bessards, 40% from Les Greffieux and 20% from Les Murets.) Guigal owns the spectacular Chateau d’Ampuis on the banks of the Rhone River. His son, Philippe, lives here and this is where they produce their wood barrels from long-aged wood staves they purchase 3 to 5 years in advance. This wine, which comes from a blend of such extraordinary vineyards as La Garde, Le Clos, Grande-Plantee, Pommiere, Pavillon, Le Moulin and La Viria, is aged 38 months in 100% new French oak. Production is approximately 2,000 cases in a good year. The three single vineyard Cote Roties are among the world’s top fifty wines ever made. Their differences become apparent around age 8-10 and are dramatically different by age 15. The first vintage of La Landonne was 1978, La Turque was 1985 and La Mouline was 1966. La Mouline is always the sexiest and easiest to appreciate young as it is co-fermented with 11% Viognier. La Turque is co-fermented with 5-6% Viognier and La Landonne is 100% Syrah. La Mouline comes from the Cote Blonde, which has lighter soils (hence the name), and La Turque and La Landonne emerge from the Cote Brune. La Mouline is made from the oldest vines (60-65 years) and is vinified using pump over techniques. From relatively young vines (about 20 years of age), La Turque is vinified by punching down. La Landonne is vinified using the modern system of the cap being immersed. The results are three very different wines, although all of them spend 42 months in 100% new French oak, are barely racked, have minimal levels of SO2, and are bottled unfined and unfiltered. Wine Advocate.December, 2011
Etienne Guigal: The Importance
Guigal is one of the most famous producers in the world and is regarded by Robert Parker as “the axis upon which the Northern Rhône rests.” Established in 1946 by Etienne Guigal, he passed it to his son Marcel and now, in turn, Marcel’s son Philippe is assuming the mantle. Parker describes this family business as “a qualitative locomotive that has brought attention to the Rhône Valley, raising the quality bar for the entire region.” And he has awarded their wines more perfect 100 point scores than any other producer on earth.
Jeff Leve of The Wine Cellar Insider says “the benchmark for quality in the Northern Rhône is set by Guigal’s Côte-Rôtie wines”, a view that Jancis Robinson shares. She says the importance of Guigal revolves largely around the “so-called Cru wines (La Mouline, La Landonne and La Turque)”, also affectionately known as the La Las, which are “dark, dramatic mouth-fillingly rich and oaky expressions of the Syrah grape.” Find out more about these below…
Etienne Guigal: The Insight
As the largest producer in Côte-Rôtie, this is the place to start. In Robert Parker’s opinion Guigal “has largely defined that appellation with his three spectacular single-vineyard offerings: La Landonne, La Mouline and La Turque. These immortal wines sell for a king’s ransom, but they are as good as anything produced anywhere in the world, and they age magnificently.” These wines are often talked about in the same breath as the First Growths in Bordeaux and the greatest Grands Crus of Burgundy. These three late-harvested Syrahs come from a positively miniscule yield of grapes and have received 27 perfect 100 point scores from Wine Advocate at time of writing; a figure that is sure to continue on its upward trajectory. The consistent quality of these wines make them a collectors dream; over the past twenty years they have received an average score of 96 points from Wine Advocate and, during this time, only a handful of the total 60 releases have ever slipped beneath 90 points. Jancis Robinson describes the purpose of these phenomenal wines to be “to knock the taster’s socks off” and their rarity, with only 400-700 cases of each being made each year, make them very precious commodities that are extremely hard to come by.
According to Jeff Leve La Mouline’s “texture in unlike any other wine in the world” and it is “one of the few phenomenally expensive wines that’s worth the money.” The Syrah and Viogner used to make it come from a single hectare plot of vines on Côte Blonde with an average age of 50 years (although many are approaching 100 years old).
La Landonne is 100% Syrah from slightly younger vines; it is the most robust and mineral of the three and longest ageing.
La Turque is the most recently created of the La Las and comes from an incredibly steep vineyard planted with Syrah and Viognier. Many consider it a midway point between the exotic La Mouline and the inky La Landonne.
As as many critics focus on the La Las, some of the other sensation wines from this magnificent producer slip under the radar. In particular Guigal’s lieu-dit St Joseph offers terrific value. This tiny single vineyard at the northern edge of the valley, planted with old vines ranging from 20 to 75 years of age, produces a very special wine that as Jeb Dunnuck attests “ages beautifully”. Alternatively, those wishing to sample Guigal’s Côte-Rôties without the price tag associated with the La Las, may wish to consider Château d’Ampuis or Brune et Blonde, which are some of the finest wines produced in the region.
Elsewhere, Guigal produces a rich and consistently highly-rated Condrieu called La Doriane, and according to John Livingstone-Learmonth of DrinkRhone.com they also offer “very reliable quality in the large production wines like the southern Rhône Côtes du Rhône.” Intelligent purchasing of property in Hermitage in the early 2000s has allowed Guigal to significantly increase the quality here too, producing limited numbers of cases from parcels in lieux-dits of Bessards, le Méal, Beaume, Pierrelle and les Murets. Ermitage Ex Voto was first released in 2001 and has shot to fame almost instantly.
Etienne Guigal: The Background
To get a steer on the style of Guigal, John Livingstone-Learmonth advises that: “Marcel Guigal has always followed a new oak, long ageing route for the red wines.” In fact the La Las spend around three and half years in oak, making barrels extremely important to Guigal, hence why they own their own cooperage and many thousand casks. This demonstrates the attention to detail of this producer, but if further affirmation is needed, Robert Parker says: “I have never seen a producer so fanatical about quality as Marcel Guigal.”
Etienne Guigal began working at Vidal Fleury in the late 1920s; he left just after World War II to set up his own company Establisments Guigal. He was joined by his son Marcel in 1961 and later the pair bought Vidal Fleury, where Etienne had cut his teeth. Although Vidal Fleury is run independently, the Guigal family still lend a hand. Since then Château d’Ampuis, Jean-Louis Grippat, Vallouit and Domaine de Bonserine have been added to the portfolio. Now Guigal owns property in Côte-Rôtie, Condrieu, Saint Joseph, Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Tavel, Gigondas and Côtes-du-Rhône, producing incredible wines from predominantly Syrah, Grenache, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier.
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