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The wines of Guigal, Rhône, France 

One of Guigal's vineyards in Côte-Rôtie

Guigal is one of those names that even novice wine geeks latch on to, famed for their three single-vineyard Côte-Rôties, La Mouline, La Turque and La Landonne (known colloquially as the La Las). These are true trophy wines, and their celebrity status and low production makes them very expensive.

As well as making domaine wines, Guigal is a negociant business, buying both grapes and finished wines from a network of growers. Quality of the negociant wines varies a little, and they are usually not the best values in their respective appellations. Having said this, they are usually pretty good, especially the Condrieu and the inexpensive Côtes du Rhône.

The Guigal story is a fascinating one. In part, the resurgence of interest in Côte Rôtie can be put down to the success of Guigal's top wines. This is an appellation that in the 1960s was down to 60 hectares, but now has rebounded to 260 hectares (still a small appellation) with prices creeping up to ever higher levels. The irony is that Guigal's La Las are, with their 42 months in new oak, rather big wines that perhaps don't show off all that these special terroirs are capable of. But still, they are striking wines, and they age pretty well. 

So, the Guigal story. Etienne Guigal began working as a cellar hand at Vidal Fleury in 1924s, when he was just 14. By 1946 he had become the cellar master, and began his own domaine in Ampuis, in the heart of the Côte Rôtie appellation.

In 1961 Etienne became blind and his son Marcel joined him in running the estate. Today, third generation Philippe, son of Marcel, is in charge of winemaking.

The success of the Guigal negociant business meant that by the mid-1980s they were able to buy Vidal Fleury, where Etienne had started out. Etienne died in 1988. In 1995 Marcel purchased the Château d’Ampuis, and in 2001 Guigal purchased both Grippat and de Vallouit. More recently, Domaine de Bonserine was purchased in 2006. 


Guigal Côte Rôtie La Turque 1998 Northern Rhône, France
7% Viognier, 400 cases made. Limestone/silica/schist/clay soils. Deep coloured. Dark, roasted, spicy black fruits nose is very savoury and quite intense. The palate is rich and spicy with some oak. Warm and quite mineral with nice acidity. Dense, firm, spicy, fresh and intense with meaty complexity. A big, spicy style. 93/100 (03/11)

Guigal Côte Rôtie La Mouline 1998 Northern Rhône, France
11% Viognier, 400 cases. Gneiss, limestone, silica soils. Subtle roast coffee and spice edge to the fine red fruits nose with some iodine hints. Really elegant and expressive with meat, iodine and spice notes. Intense but with elegance to the cherry fruit. Superb stuff. 95/100  (03/11)

Côte Rôtie La Landonne 1998 Northern Rhône, France
100% Syrah, clay limestone soils rich in iron oxide.  800 cases. Taut black cherry and plum fruit nose with some fine spicy notes. Some rich, spicy, roasted notes on the palate but also nice fruit. Some firm tannins. Iodine, spice and a bit of meatiness. Firm with some earthy notes; currently quite closed, just about carrying the oak, needs time. 94/100 (03/11)

Guigal Château d’Ampuis Côte Rôtie 2005 Northern Rhône, France
93% Syrah, 7% Viognier. Marcel Guigal produces 40% of all Côte Rôtie by volume; he joined the family firm in 1961 aged just 18. This wine was first made in 1995 when Guigal bought Château d’Ampuis, and has grapes from seven different lieux dits. It’s aged in 100% new oak, in which it spends just over 3 years. Spicy, focused and fresh with some elegance and fresh acidity. Quite Burgundian with savoury spicy tannic structure well integrated into the wine. Subtly meaty and peppery, and not as edgy as northern Rhône Syrah can be. Polished with well integrated oak. 92/100 (02/10)

Guigal Côtes du Rhône 2001
Sweet ripe red fruits on the nose. The palate is soft, ripe and generous with a savoury twist to the ripe red fruits. Quite evolved with a dry finish. Very good+ 87/100

Guigal Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde 2001
96% Syrah, 4% Viognier, aged two years in oak with average yields of 35 hl/ha. I’ve had this twice recently with rather discrepant notes, and here I’m giving the most favourable. Nicely typical nose of spicy, savoury olive-laced fruit with a meaty edge. Midweight palate is savoury and expressive, showing high acidity. Savoury: good but not great, but shows typicity, which is a good thing. Very good/excellent 90/100 (10/05)

Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Turque 2001
A blend of 93% Syrah and 7% Viognier, from grapes grown in silicon/limestone with schist. Average vine age 15 years; yields c. 35 hl/ha. Aged for a whopping 42 months in new oak. The immediate impression is of sweet, dark intense red and black fruits on the nose. It’s quite soupy—almost a little jammy in its sweetly fruited intensity. The palate is concentrated and rich with an almost liqueur-like quality to the fruit. It’s currently a little monolithic, dominated by sweet fruit and oak without any clear definition, but the concentration of flavour is certainly here and this will probably age quite well into a soft, spicy maturity. Very good/excellent 90/100 (10/05)

Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Landonne 2001
100% Syrah from limestone/clay soils. Vine age is 25 years and yields c. 35 hl/ha. 42 months in new oak. There’s some freshness to the nose which is dominated by super-sweet red and black fruits, with a spicy edge. The palate is very concentrated showing multilayered soft, sweet fruits, and there’s a bit of minerality poking through the wall of fruit and oak. Nice freshness to the fruit, but will it escape the oak? Very good/excellent 92/100 (10/05)

Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Mouline 2001
89% Syrah and 11% Viognier from gneiss/lightly coloured silicon/limestone loess. Average vine age 75 years, yield c. 35 hl/ha, 42 months in new oak. This is more like it: there’s typicity here. There’s a lovely meaty, spicy dimension to the forward red and black fruits on the nose. It’s almost bloody, and deliciously savoury. The palate is concentrated and intense with bold, full-on fruit and nice savoury, minerally structure, backed up by spicy oak. Good acidity. Big but expressive. Very good/excellent 94/100 (10/05)

See also: wines of the Rhône 

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