Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde 2018
Marcel Guigal is the single person most responsible for bringing this historically great wine region to prominence. The Northern Rhône Valley is the cradle of wine civilization in France, with vineyards planted today on the same spot where they were planted 2,500 years ago by Romans, and it offers a completely unique profile of wines that are so expressive and bring so much pleasure, yet satisfy the most intellectually thirsty drinker. To put it simply, Marcel Guigal transformed Côte-Rôtie, the world’s perception and love for the wines, and now with his son he has not stopped leading his obsessive attention to detail and quality.
Côte-Rôtie is situated in the northernmost region of the Rhone valley. The Syrah vine is planted on steep terraced hillsides which catch and focus the sun’s heat, giving the region its reputation and name: “Roasted Slope.” A small percentage of the white Viognier grape is coplanted with the Syrah, and the two are harvested and fermented together, giving the wine more elegance and lightness. The Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde de Guigal refers to the fact that the grapes come from the two areas of Côte-Rôtie, the Côte Brune and Côte Blonde. The historical legend is that long ago a lord deeded the Côte Brune to his dark-haired daughter and the Côte Blonde to his blond daughter. The soils of the Côte Brune are indeed darker, containing more iron and some clay while the paler soils of the Côte Blonde have more sand and limestone.
This blend of 96% Syrah and 4% Viognier was hand-harvested and sorted before a 3-week temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel. The wine ages for 36 months in oak barrel, of which 50% is new oak. All the barrels used by Guigal are produced on site by their cooper, a rarity in the wine world.
2018 is now confirmed as one of the truly great vintages in the Northern Rhône valley. Following a very wet Spring, Summer was dry and hot – the warmest vintage since 2003. Harvest was quick and early, starting on the last day of August and finishing in Côte Rôtie on September 20th. Yields were slightly above average, but the fruit was uniformly ripe, with some vineyards in Côte Rôtie coming in at 15o potential. Due to the heat, the vineyards on the elevated slopes fared best, and Cote Rotie, Hermitage, and the granitic-terraced sites in Saint-Joseph and Crozes excelling. The red wines are dense and concentrated, with exceptionally deep color and rich tannins, similar to 2015 but with even more intensity. The whites are rich, juicy, and succulent.
Dark ruby red in color. The nose presents spices, red berries and delicate oak aromas. The wine opens with round, soft tannin that are followed by rasberry, blackberry and vanilla. Overall, the wine is balanced between scarcely perceptible acidity and tannins which add ageing potential and softened by long ageing in oak.
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James Suckling -
"All of the classic Cote-Rotie aromas (leather, smoked bacon, spices and black cherry) pour from the glass of this rich and fleshy wine. Very silky texture, in spite of the generous, fine tannins, which build beautifully at the long, complete finish." J.S 2/22
Wine Spectator -
"This pushes lots of alder, incense and singed tobacco notes to the fore, with commensurate cherry and red currant paste flavors following behind that, finishing with perfume and red tea accents. This is not shy with its oak treatment and very nicely done." -J.M 2/22
Other Wines by this Producer
Guigal’s Vignes de l’Hospice is one of the finest sites in the Northern Rhone Valley. This steeply terraced vineyard used to be divided into three, but Guigal now owns majority of this parcel in order to restore perception of Saint-Joseph as an appellation of utmost quality. In fact, Guigal is often asked when they will produce a fourth “LaLa,” and their response is that their fourth single vineyard phenomenon of the Northern Rhone is already being produced: the Vignes de l’Hospice.
One of the three “LaLa” wines that Guigal produces and are the most collectible wines of the Rhone Valley, La Landonne is a remarkable expression of terroir. And for good reason, La Landonne is situated on one of the steepest vineyards of the Côte Brune, a 45 degree slope that remarkably requires harvesters to start picking from the bottom of the vineyard and work their way up, placing grape bunches in bins that are set on sleds and dragged up the hill. Along with its position at the northern end of the Côte Brune and the fact it is the last vineyard to ripen, La Landonne is the mirror of the feminine and voluptuous La Mouline: it is a wine of driving power, defined by its dark fruit and structure. The first vintage Guigal produced was in 1978, after being planted in 1975 at the time of Philippe Guigal’s birth.
Of the three famous single-vineyard “LaLas” that Guigal produces and are the most collectible wines of the Rhone Valley, La Turque is the newest. 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. The first vintage appeared in 1985. In both position and style, it sits between La Mouline and La Landonne: 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.
First planted by the Romans 2,500 years ago, La Mouline is the oldest and most famous vineyard of Cote-Rotie, and Guigal’s single vineyard bottling of La Mouline in the 1960s set off a quality revolution throughout the Rhone Valley. The stunning amphitheater is the most complex plot in Cote-Rotie due to its extremely steep slopes with expositions in every direction. Of the three famous “LaLas” that Guigal produces and are the most collectible wines of the Rhone Valley, La Mouline was the first and is the only one on the Cote Blonde, and its signature is an unbelievable exoticism, an irresistibly and unique lifted floral, black fruit, earthy, spicy perfume, its coiled power always in balance, seemingly endless.
Ermitage Ex-Voto represents the fulfillment of a longtime dream of Marcel Guigal’s to own vineyard land on the hill of Hermitage. Through the purchase of the de Vallouit and J. L. Grippat domaines in 2000, Guigal acquired four exceptional vineyard parcels on this legendary site. The 2001 vintage was the first release of this estate-bottled Hermitage red and white. The quality of the intense old-vine fruit is quite special, but given the Guigal’s already strong work in Hermitage, they decided to only release an Ex-Voto red or white when the wine is utterly exceptional and clearly superior to their appellation bottlings.
Ermitage Ex-Voto represents the fulfillment of a longtime dream of Marcel Guigal’s to own vineyard land on the hill of Hermitage. Through the purchase of the de Vallouit and J. L. Grippat domaines in
2000, Guigal acquired four exceptional vineyard parcels on this legendary site. The 2001 vintage was the first release of this estate-bottled Hermitage red and white. The quality of the intense old-vine fruit is quite special, but given the Guigal’s already strong work in Hermitage, they decided to only release an Ex-Voto red or white when the wine is utterly exceptional and clearly superior to their appellation bottlings.
Guigal produces an intensely concentrated, inviting and complex Châteauneuf-du-Pape that is almost unique to the region today. Their passion for Châteauneuf, the leading appellation of the Southern Rhône, runs as deeply as that for their home sites in the Northern Rhône. The combination of working with top fruit that has perfect ripeness, along with their extraordinary patience in the cellar, results in rich and full, yet savory, spicy, seamless and balanced wines. Wines to enjoy immediately but capable of aging, and, above all, wines that leave you wanting more.
Whites make up a small percentage of production in the Rhône, under 2%, but white wines are a little bit of a secret specialty at Guigal and today comprise 25% of their production. And for good reason, as the whites of the Northern Rhône are true discovery wines, immensely appealing and complex. They specifically display an expressiveness and brightness while also capturing the warmth of the area. Even more of a discovery is Hermitage Blanc, one of the least-known yet most intriguing wines of the Rhône Valley and in the small 309 acre Hermitage AOC.
Hermitage is one of France’s most spectacular and famous appellations, producing small quantities of extraordinarily intense and ageworthy red wine and tiny amounts of dry white. The entire vineyard consists of 309 acres planted on a single granite hillside on the banks of the Rhône. The Hermitage Rouge is the example of a racy wine, that manages to remain seductive.
La Doriane is a luxury cuvée of Condrieu that the Guigals have produced since the 1994 vintage. A great success since the first vintage, the wine always seems richly oaked and very fruity when young, transforming in 3-4 years into a seamlessly complex, aromatic and vibrant wine. La Doriane contradicts the accepted wisdom that Condrieu does not age well.