La Turque is Guigal’s latest addition to the single-vineyard Côte-Rôties. This vineyard produced outstanding wines in the first half of the 20th century, but then was not used for wine production for nearly 50 years. The Guigals acquired the vineyard and re-planted it in 1980 and 1981 based on Etienne Guigal’s memory of the quality of the wines it once produced, and the first vintage appeared in 1985.
La Turque is around 2.5 acres in size, situated just north of the Côte Blonde and into the Côte Brune on a vertiginous slope that enjoys perfect southern exposure; La Turque is in fact the only vineyard in Côte-Rôtie that directly sees the first rays of sunshine in the morning all the way through the last rays of dusk. This vineyard is planted to 93% Syrah and 7% Viognier, with a soil type of silicone limestone with schist that produces clay soils rich in iron oxide.
The wine is punched down 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.
The complex soils lend an exotic character to La Turque, and its concentration and elegance exhibit the virility of the Côte Brune with the subtlety and femininity of the Côte Blonde.
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.
Parker 100 points: The blockbuster 2009 Cote Rotie La Turque needs time, but there’s no denying the quality here. Very ripe and voluptuous, with incredible aromas and flavors of black currants, coffee bean, roasted meats, licorice and raw steak, this full-bodied, muscular and powerful effort has a stacked mid-palate, ultra-fine, yet building tannin and a finish that just won’t quit. Comprised of 93% Syrah and 7% Viognier, it’s much more masculine and dense than the La Mouline, and will need additional cellar time to hit its peak.
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.