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Average critic rating : 89.0 points
There are 3.5 million bottles of the 2009 Cotes du Rhone red, which represents an amazing value. A blend of 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre, it comes primarily from the Plan de Dieu (Plain of God), which is situated northeast of Chateauneuf du Pape. This tank-aged, deep ruby/purple-colored, concentrated, fleshy, medium to full-bodied, supple offering reveals plenty of pepper, kirsch and black currant fruit intermixed with a notion of flowers. It is meant to be consumed during its first 2-3 years of life although I have tasted 10-year-old bottles that are still holding together. ||The next issue will cover Guigal’s brilliant northern Rhone wines, but the seriousness and impeccable attention to detail is noticeable with these southern Rhone selections for which he buys finished wines and blends them together. As I have written many times, the Guigals should offer a class in the brilliance of a wine’s elevage (meaning its upbringing in the cellars). I have visited this firm for over three decades, and it is always remarkable how the quality of the wines improves consistently in the different vessels in which it is aged right through and after bottling. The Guigals have long recognized that most people will never have a chance to taste the monumental, world-class Cote Roties, Hermitages and Condrieus they produce, but most consumers should be able to find their humble, inexpensive Cotes du Rhones. They have always made a delicious red Cotes du Rhone, but the quality of their white Cotes du Rhones has soared over recent vintages. Sooner or later (and I would bet it will be sooner) the Guigals will purchase a large estate in Chateauneuf du Pape. Both Philippe and Marcel agree there are three truly magnificent appellations in the entire Rhone Valley – Cote Rotie, Hermitage and Chateauneuf du Pape. The latter is the only one where they do not own their own vineyards and they are aggressively seeking an estate to purchase. Normally a blend of 85% Grenache and the rest equal parts Syrah, Mourvedre and miscellaneous grapes, their Chateauneuf du Pape is aged completely in foudre for a number of years before being bottled. The two recent vintages look to be sensational and should come close to matching their finest Chateauneuf du Pape in over three decades, the 2007. Wine Advocate.October, 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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