The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: E. Guigal and….E. Guigal!

Posted on | March 10, 2015 | Written by David Gwo | No Comments

David Gwo 12.8.14One of France’s biggest red wine producing regions is the Rhône Valley. What’s interesting about the Rhône Valley is that there is a huge contrast between north and south. The southern Rhône focuses almost exclusively on blends, with its most famous appellation being Châteauneuf-du-Pape (“CDP”), which utilizes what is called the “Châteauneuf Thirteen,” referring to thirteen grape varietals, 8 red and 5 white, used to make Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge and Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc. The most common blend for reds in the Southern Rhône is Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvedre (“GSM”), with Gigondas and Vacqueyras making fine examples in addition to the famed wines from CDP.

The northern Rhône, however, focuses solely on Syrah as its red grape varietal. For whites, Marsanne and Roussanne are typically blended together, and Viognier usually stands alone as a single-varietal wine. The northern Rhône produces arguably the finest expression of Syrah (also known as Shiraz in Austrailia) with the best coming from Hermitage and Cote-Rotie.

You can’t talk about the northern Rhône without mentioning the name E. Guigal. Guigal produces the finest examples of Côte-Rôtie in the appellation and has been doing so for decades. The estate bottles a whole range of wines from Côte-Rôtie with the flagship wines being La Landonne (100% Syrah), La Mouline, and La Turque (the latter two being Syrah/Viognier blends). A producer like Guigal wouldn’t limit itself just to Côte-Rôtie, though, and the estate bottles a terrific white and red from the other prestigious region of Hermitage. I’ve chosen two of the estate’s wines to feature today:

Guigal 2009 Hermitage Ex Voto Blanc $199.00
The Ex Voto Blanc is a blend of mostly Marsanne and a touch of Roussanne. The hardest part about making white wines in the northern Rhône is the warmth, which makes it difficult to retain acidity. Acid is an important structural component in white wines; it provides the impression of freshness and vibrancy. While this white Hermitage isn’t the most acidic white around, it is stunning nonetheless. Marsanne and Roussanne have a distinct flavor profile of tropical and citrus fruits, white flowers or tea, and distinct notes of honey and nuts backed by an extremely rich texture. Guigal’s Ex Voto Blanc is one of the best examples of what can be achieved with these grape varietals.

Guigal 2009 Hermitage Ex Voto Rouge $499.00

2009 was a tremendous vintage for both the northern and southern Rhône Valleys. The Syrahs produced in Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie were wines with great ripeness, concentration, depth, and structure. This ’09 is definitely a wine to cellar, and with time, it will greatly reward your patience. Right now this is still a baby, but if you were to pop the cork you’d find a daunting structure and massive body with notes of dark fruits, earth, game, and minerality. This is a breathtaking wine in the making.

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