Last week, Philippe Guigal made a visit in Stockholm, and their Swedish importer Vinunic took the occasion to arrange two Winemaker’s Dinners at Operakällaren (“the Opera Cellar”). Philippe (vintage 1975) has since a few years taken over as Guigal‘s winemaker from his father Marcel Guigal (vintage 1944). It was Marcel who made the company grow and become internationally well known, although it was Etienne Guigal who founded it in 1946, and whose initial E. still features in the company name. The tasting included both the most recent bottled vintage of a number of wines, in some cases those that are due to be released in a couple of months, and some older goodies.
Grape variety: Viognier. 1/3 vinified in new oak, 2/3 in steel tank.
Nose with ripe pear, some peach and apricot, spice, mineral, and a hint of oak. The palate is noticeably oily, shows powerful concentration, pear, mineral, and a rather low acidity. Ready to drink now, not a wine made for cellaring, 89 p.
2012 Condrieu La Doriane
Grape variety: Viognier. 8 months in new oak.
Nose with ripe pear, peach, strong spice notes, mineral with mint, discretely perfumed, and with oak notes. Palate with an oily attack, quite powerful concentration, pear, spice with some aniseed, strong mineral notes, barely medium acidity. Young, approachable now, but can be cellared, 91(+) p.
Compared to the regular 2012 Condrieu, La Doriane has a more powerful nose, is a bit more concentrated on the palate, and – most importantly – shows more mineral notes and a bit more acidity. La Doriane is produced in a different style that can be cellared for a number of years, while the thought behind the regular Condrieu is “DYA” (drink youngest available). I must say, though, that the stylistic difference between the two was less than when I tasted several earlier vintages, which may be due to the vintage character. My impresion of these two 2012 Condrieus is that the vintage shows a rather hot and ripe character.
2011 St Joseph Lieu Dit Blanc
Grape varieties: 95% Marsanne and 5% Roussanne. One half vinified in new oak and one half vinified in oak barrels previously used one time.
Golden yellow colour. Nose with ripe yellow fruit, yellow apples, hints of oranges, mineral, some spice and a hint of flowery aromas. Palate with ripe yellow fruit, apple, noticeable mineral notes, slightly oily texture, spice, medium(-) acidity, a hint of bitterness, good aftertaste. Foody style, rather drinkable now, 90(+) p.
2010 Ermitage Ex Voto Blanc
Grape varieties: 90% Marsanne and 10% Roussanne. Vinified 30 months in new oak. Will be sold by Guigal beginning in February 2014, at the same time as the 2010 LaLas.
Light golden yellow colour. Nose with yellow apple, some oranges, pronounced mineral notes with some mint, some honey, a hint of herbaceous notes and possibly just a (pleasant) touch of turpentine, discrete perfumed notes, a hint of oak, very elegant. Palate with massive minerality with ripe yellow fruit including apples in the background, a hint of almond, medium+ acidity, very long aftertaste with mineral notes and freshness. Extremely elegant and balanced. Young, and while approachable now, it can be expected to close down, 96+ p.
Allow this wine to mature and I believe it would be very interesting to put it next to some Montrachets and hyphenated -Montrachet neighbours from good producers, i.e., extra concentrated white Burgundies with both elegance and a very full-bodied style. If the Burgundies were to be chosen from a somewhat hotter vintage such as 2009, I’m not sure that this wine would immediately stand out as a Rhône wine among the Burgundies.
This was definitely one of the best white Rhône wines I have ever tasted! To me, really good white Hermitage without doubt beats really good Condrieu. The 2009 Ex Voto was very, very good (I scored it 94+ last year), but the 2010 is better. 2010 is a top vintage for both red and white wines, and shows both fine ripeness of the grapes and a high acid level, i.e., a lot of freshness. This is a good combination for both red and white wines, but for me this extra acidity is of particular importance in white Rhône wines, to balance their inherent oily character and add some extra finesse.
2010 St Joseph Lieu Dit Rouge
100% Syrah. One half vinified in new oak and one half vinified in oak barrels previously used one time.
Dark red with purple notes. Nose with ripe blackberries, violets and liquorice; a classical Syrah nose. Medium bodied (+), palate with blackberries, rather good concentration, good acidity, medium tannins with a fine structure. Young, but approachable now, 90(+) p.
2010 St Joseph Vignes de l’Hospice
100% Syrah. Vinified 30 months in new oak.
Dark red with purple notes. Nose with ripe blackberries and blackcurrants, flowery notes with violets and some perfume, liquorice. Elegant! Medium bodied+, palate with ripe blackberries, quite concentrated, flowery notes with violets, velvety medium(+) tannins, good acidity. Young, but reasonably approachable now, 93(+) p.
Vignes de l’Hospice is usually a good wine with a straightforward Rhône Syrah character, built primarily on power rather than complexity and elegance. However, in this vintage the wine shows a polished and elegant character that I haven’t encountered before. The 2010 simply shows quite a lot of Hermitage style, in particular by the very velvety structure of its tannins. The 2009 (which I scored 93+ last year) was more powerful and darker in its aromas, but not as finely polished.
Vignes de l’Hospice originates from a steep vineyard located across the Rhône river from the Les Bessards vineyard on the Hermitage hill, and Philippe pointed out the similarity in soils between the two vineyards, but due to the track taken by the river they face in different directions.
2009 Côte-Rôtie La Mouline
89 % Syrah and 11% Viognier. Vinified 40 months in new oak.
Compact dark red colour with purple. Nose with ripe blackberries, strong flowery notes with violets and perfume, some mint, liquorice. Fully bodied with an oily and velvety mouth feel, palate with ripe blackberries and ripe dark cherries, enormous concentration, very good acidity, mineral, medium(+) tannins with very velvety structure. Very elegant both in the nose and on the palate! Young, approachable now, but can definitely develop since it after all shows some toughness, 97+ p.
La Mouline is the most smooth of the three Côte-Rôtie LaLa wines, and is the one that is the most accessible already when released. But do remember that patience is a virtue! The 2009 developed a lot in the glass, so those who plan to open a bottle (rather than exercise the virtue just mentioned) should allow it at least a couple hours of aeration in a decanter.
2005 Ermitage Ex Voto Rouge
100% Syrah. Vinified 40 months in new oak.
Medium to dark red colour. Nose with ripe blackberries, blackcurrants, some tar, some signs of maturity with leather and some barnyard notes. Full bodied, palate with dark cherries and blackcurrants, quite concentrated, spice, medium+ tannins with a fine structure. Still rather young, but rather approachable now, 97(+) p.
This wine gave me some Bordeaux feeling, but this can be because it was contrasted by a couple of Côte-Rôties. This was the big surprise of the tasting for me, because I had expected this wine to be less accessible, and that it hadn’t emerged from being closed down, which is the way many high-end red 2005s behave. 1,5 months ago, I actually felt that the 2005 Château d’Ampuis was more closed than the 2005 Ex Voto was now. Before La Mouline improved even more after some time in the glass, it looked like I would score this wine the highest in the tasting.
1998 Côte-Rôtie La Turque
93 % Syrah and 7% Viognier. Vinified 40 months in new oak..
Medium red colour, slightly faded edge. Nose with dark cherries, discrete herbaceous notes, cloves, pepper, some tar, some mature notes with barnyard and leather, discrete perfume notes; elegant. Full bodied, powerful concentration, palate with ripe dark cherries and blackberries, spice, good acidity, medium(+) tannins with a silky structure. Ready to drink but with rather youthful fruit notes, will be able to take a lot more in terms of cellaring, 95 p.
This wine naturally shows quite a lot of mature notes, but it is surprisingly youthful for its age. Because of the fine maturity, there were those who considered this to be the best of the three top wines, but in my opinion it could be felt that 2005 are 2009 XXL-sized vintages, while 1998 is more XL-sized. 🙂
Medium red, some brick at the edge. Nose with blackberries, blackcurrants, animal notes with charcuteries, leather, barnyard, discrete herbaceous notes, noticeably flowery notes with violets. Medium bodied+, blackberries, ripe cherries, quite good acidity, medium tannins, spice. Classical development in the nose and on the palate, with a clear Côte-Rôtie style. Fully developed, but should be able to take 10+ more years in the cellar with no problems, 93 p.
A unique experience considering that the total production volume of this wine was 150 magnums. Some considered this wine as the best during the whole tasting. To me, this wine is at about the same level as the best vintages of Château d’Ampuis. I found it interesting to note that the typical Guigal style wasn’t as pronounced in this wine, due to the presence of some herbaceous notes and a quite present acidity. This wine simply came across as a very classical and mature high class Côte-Rôtie.
Hommage à Etienne Guigal has so far only been produced three times, and honours the memory of Etienne Guigal, founder of the company and Philippe’s grandfather, who passed away in 1988. In 1989 one barrel from the Côte-Rotie vineyard La Pommière was bottled under this name, which yielded 300 bottles. In 1990 this was repeated, but the wine was filled on 150 magnums instead. In 2005, this wine was again produced, but then from one barrel of La Pommière and one barrel of La Viria, which should mean 300 magnums. Both La Pommière and La Viria are vineyards that are used to produce Château d’Ampuis, since the 1995 vintage and the 2005 vintage, respectively. Presumably, it was the addition of La Viria in the 2005 vintage that was the reason why the Hommage was produced in that vintage. In terms of quality, Hommage can be be seen as a barrel-selected Château d’Ampuis. It can be noted that no wine above Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde is sold in magnum bottles, i.e., their trésors with individual labels (the LaLas, Ex Voto, Château d’Ampuis and so on) are not in available in magnum.
This was a marvelous tasting, so I hope Philippe will come visiting more times!
The Swedish version here.