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Parker 100 points / Bottled earlier this year, the 2010 Cote Rotie la Mouline is an incredible effort that gives up classic creme de cassis, spring flowers, licorice, coffee bean and spiced meat-like aromas and flavors to go with a full-bodied, sexy, seamless and blockbuster-styled profile on the palate. While more reserved and focused than the 2009, it nevertheless has incredible amounts of fruit and texture, thrilling purity and a finish that just won’t quit. It will certainly rival the 2009, 2005, 2003 and 1999, and when all is said and done, the 1978. It will have 4 to 5 decades of longevity.
One of the reference point estates for top quality wines in the world today, the family run Guigal operation was created in 1946 by Etienne Guigal. Today, Etienne’s son, Marcel, and his son Philippe, are firmly in control here, and are without a doubt producing some of the most singular, sought after wines in the world. Due to the size of this tasting, I’ll keep my comments short, but the incredible quality coming from this operation is astounding, and a tasting here is always one of the highlights of any trip through the region. Furthermore, while a lot is said about the extended oak aging regime here, I don’t know anyone who tastes mature examples of these wines on a regular basis that still has any doubts about the genius going on here. In short, these single vineyard (and their blends as well) Cote Roties are some of the greatest wines money can buy. For this tasting (which, with the Guigals, is always a large one!), we focused on their Saint Joseph Vignes des Hospice release, and then three of their Cote Roties, starting with the classic Brune et Blonde, then the Chateau d’Ampuis, and finishing with their single vineyard La Mouline.
Looking first at their Saint Joseph Vignes des Hospices release, it comes all from the incredibly steep (and picturesque) vineyard perched just above the town of Tournon. The exposure here (which is critical for Saint Joseph as the more southern facing the plot, the warmer the site is) is mostly east facing and the soils are pure granite (identical to the decomposed granite found in the Les Bessards lieu-dit on Hermitage Hills). Compared to the Saint Joseph lieu-dit, which has a slightly more southern exposure, harvest here is always 5-7 days later.
Moving north to Côte Rôtie, the Guigal’s Brune et Blonde is their entry level release that comes from a mix of vineyards, most of which are estate. It drinks beautifully on release and has a solid 15-20 years of longevity in top vintages.
Stepping up over the Brune et Blonde, the Cote Rotie Chateau d’Ampuis is named after the Chateau d’Ampuis estate (which lies in the town of Ampuis, right up along the Rhone River, and was purchased by the Guigal’s in 1995) and is a blend of their top estate vineyards. Coming from La Garde, Le Clos, Grande-Plantee, Pommiere, Pavillon, Le Moulin and La Viria, it spends close to four years in new French oak (handled just like the single vineyard releases) and there’s roughly 30,000 bottles produced in each vintage. While the single vineyard releases get all the buzz, this is isn’t far behind in quality, especially in recent vintages, and can represent an incredible value.
La Mouline is a steeply terraced amphitheater on the Côte Blonde, a shape that shelters the 2.5 acre site from the wind and acts as a heat trap. Soils are gneiss with lightly colored silicone containing limestone loess. The site is planted to 89% Syrah and 11% Viognier, with the two varieties picked together and co-fermented. This extra dose of Viognier gives La Mouline its telltale aromatic complexity and additional softness and roundness; it is often called the most feminine of Guigal’s Côte-Rôties.
La Mouline is historically the oldest vineyard in Cote-Rotie, with walls dating back 2,400 years, and today its vines are the oldest in the region, averaging 90 years of age, with the oldest dating back to plantings in the 1890s, just after phylloxera. Acquired in 1966, this was Guigal’s first single-vineyard Côte-Rôtie.
The wine sees traditional pumpovers, 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.
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.
Terraced wines in the shape of a Roman amphitheatre. Gneis with lighly coloured silicone soil with limestone lœss.
89% Syrah, 11% Viognier.
Average age of vines
about 75 years
Thermoregulated stainless steel tanks. Traditional pumping over. Alcoholic fermentation/ 4 week maceration..
42 months in new oak
35 Hl / hectare.
Eye : Ruby red with red vermillion tints.
Nose : Small red fruits, blackberry and floral violet aromas.Intensely aromatic, powerful but full of finesse.
Palate : Supple with balance between the finesse of the aromas and an explosive richness due to the concentration of the wine. Greatly expressive of the terroir.
Overall : A feminine wine with voluptuous silky texture and intense aromas.