In order to enhance quality the Guigals worked to acquire ownership in vineyards. Purchased in 1965, the just under one-hectare La Mouline plantation, which is located on the slopes of Côte Blonde, set the stage for the Guigals’ present reputation. Introduced the very next year, the La Mouline single-vineyard proved to be a smashing success, and the active acquisition of vineyards continued. However, it would be more than 10 years before the Guigals introduced their next single-vineyard wine, the La Landonne, in 1978. Just over 2 hectares in size, the plot was purchased piece by piece from 17 different small-scale growers.
The Guigals finally revealed their true greatness in 1984 when they acquired the oldest winemaker in the Rhône, Etienne’s former employer, Vidal-Fleury. This significant acquisition instantly made the Guigals the leading producer in the Côte-Rôtie region, giving them a 35% share of the entire region’s output. This new acquisition also gave the Guigals ownership of Vidal-Fleury’s La Turque plot. Introduced in 1985, the La Turque cemented Guigal’s reputation as one of the most prestigious producers of single-vineyard wines in the Rhône. The single-vineyard wines gave the Guigals the authority that helped them to profile their production from the Côtes-du-Rhône wines on. This is how Guigal evolved into the region's leading commercial AOC brand, whose only real contender is, for the time being, Paul Jaboulet Ainé.
A 5.7 acre site planted entirely with Syrah, Guigal’s La Landonne has been produced since 1978, after being planted in 1975 at the time of Philippe Guigal’s birth. Guigal acquired the vineyard from numerous small owners, building their holding parcel by parcel over a decade. The vineyard is one of the steepest of the Côte Brune, a 45 degree slope of limestone clay very rich in iron oxide.
La Landonne is at the northern end of the Côte Brune and is the last vineyard to ripen, consequently its stems achieve full maturation and grapes are never destemmed.
The wine is continuously pumped over, and alcoholic fermentation and maceration last around 4 weeks. Aging is for 42 months in new oak barrels made at the Chateau d’Ampuis cooperage.
La Landonne is typically the most tannic, structured, powerful and intensely concentrated of the Guigal single-vineyard Côte-Rôties. It has great aging potential and is usually thought to take the longest to mature, though it rewards patience with its singular combination of fortitude and finesse.
Parker 100 points: Another 2009 that exhibits over the top extravagance and richness, and one I can find no fault in, the 2009 Cote Rotie La Landonne offers a colossal and full-bodied profile that carries incredible aromas and flavors of roasted meats, smoke, asphalt and assorted meatiness that’s all grounded by a massive core of fruit. A huge wine, it stays perfectly in check, with notable freshness, a deep, layered mid-palate and masses of fine tannin that carry through the finish. Hide this beauty in the cellar for another decade and enjoy.
One of the highlight tastings during my more than two weeks spent working in the Northern Rhone, this set of releases by the father/son pair, Marcel and Philippe Guigal, is about as stacked a lineup as you’ll find anywhere in the world. From their tiny production Cote Roties, to the massive production level Cotes du Rhone (red and white), the quality here is impeccable, as is the attention to detail at every step of the winemaking process. Looking at the vintages reviewed here, reds first, their 2009s are some of the most bombastic, decadent and thrilling wines out there. While they have the over the top richness that allows them to dish out plenty of pleasure even now, they need 4-5 years to integrate their oak and to fully flesh out. Count yourself lucky if you have a few of these hidden in the cellar. More classic in style across the board, the 2010s are more focused and straight, yet similarly concentrated, if not with additional density. They will take slightly longer to come around compared to the 2009s, and certainly offer a more textbook drinking experience. They, too, are at the top of the wine hierarchy. The 2011s show the vintage nicely with slightly more approachable profiles, sweet tannin and brilliant concentration, especially in the vintage.
They still have another year in barrel to go, but will certainly be among the top wines of the vintage, have broad drink windows, and should come close to what was achieved in 2009 and 2010, albeit in a different style. Lastly, the 2012s should, in my mind, surpass the 2011s, as they have a smidge more overall density, as well as fabulous purity. Neither the 2011s nor 2012s have the density of the 2010s, nor the sheer wealth of material that’s found in the 2009s. Nevertheless, time will tell, and these wines won’t be bottled for some time yet. Looking at the whites, 2011 and 2012 are similar in quality. Both vintages have beautiful purity, good overall acidity and good concentration, i.e., lots to like. Whether or not we’ll see a 2012 Ermitage Ex-Voto Blanc (which was not produced in 2011) remains to be seen, but what I tasted was certainly promising, if not earth-shattering (as was the 2010!). Looking at the Chateau d’Ampuis releases, this cuvee is a blend of vineyards (La Garde, Le Clos, Grande-Plantee, Pommiere, Pavillon, Le Moulin and La Viria lieux-dits) and sees upwards of 38 months in 100% new French oak.