There are an impressive 4.5 million bottles of the 2016 Cotes du Rhone, a ripe, silky wine that should bring pleasure to thousands of consumers. Cherries and raspberries mark the nose, while the medium to full-bodied palate adds nuances of cola, tree bark and spice. At $24, it represents terrific value.
Tasting at Guigal is always one of the highlights of my Northern Rhône trip. Because of the family's breadth of production and hallmark long élevage, it provides a chance to look at several vintages together, along with commentary from the knowledgeable patriarch, Marcel Guigal. This year, I was joined by Marcel, his son Philippe and Jacques Desvernois, hired away from Jaboulet in the summer of 2018, for a five-hour marathon in the chilly cellar beneath the company's headquarters in Ampuis. Despite the cool temperatures, there were smiles all around at the quality of the samples on the table. "Global warming has been fabulous for the Northern Rhône," said Marcel at one point. It would be easy to overlook some of the lesser wines in the cellar and zoom straight to the single-vineyard Côte Rôties, but for readers on a budget, the company has plenty of good wine to offer, starting with the mammoth quantities produced of the basic Côtes du Rhône (4.5 million bottles of the 2016 rouge). From the north, the closest equivalent is the Crozes-Hermitage, but I favor the Saint-Joseph in most vintages for its more granitic expression of Syrah. The whites here (outside of Condrieu, where they are the largest producer) are often overlooked, but I believe the quality is improving. Philippe Guigal said they worked the lees of the whites sparingly in 2018 to avoid any heaviness. While the focus of my visit is on the north, Guigal produces several wines from the Southern Rhône, which were included in the tasting. Indeed, for a négociant, Guigal does a terrific job maintaining consistency in their Southern Rhône bottlings. Interestingly, although they now own a large property in Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Château de Nalys), sourcing for the négociant CdP remains completely separate. "We have two hemispheres in our brains," said Philippe. "Guigal and Nalys." The latest Nalys wines were reviewed previously, as part of my Châteauneuf-du-Pape coverage.
Rated : 91 Points
Tasted : Dec19
Drink : 2020 – 2023
Joe Czerwinski – Wine Advocate