Fear, Loathing, Dinner & Tasting: Guigal takes me to La La land
There are few producers in the world that are as conspicuous as Guigal. Synonymous with the wines of the Rhone, their basic Cotes du Rhone has a production of about 3 million bottles. It is in the very tip of the Northern Rhone in Condrieu and Cote Rotie however that Guigal really produce their most profound wines. The three top expressions of Cote Rotie (La Landonne, La Mouline and La Turque) are affectionately known as the La Las. These three wines have received 100 points from Robert Parker a whopping 28 times between them, with all three going back to back in 2009 and 2010.
The 2012 vintage was not on the same level as 2009, 2010 or indeed 2015. It is this fact that makes this release so damn remarkable. We sift through a stunning line-up of 20 wines, mostly 2012, but with some old vintages thrown in for good measure. The whites were stellar. We were greeted with a glass of St Joseph Blanc before trying 2007, 2011 and 2014 of his famed 'La Dorienne', a Condieu (100% Viognier). The evolution of these wines was fascinating, each enjoying magnificent length and complexity.
Moving to the 2012 reds, I was astonished at the quality across the board. I could have left happy after trying the St Joseph Lieu Dit. We also tried the Vignes de la Hospice, which shares a geological history with the Hill of Hermitage - it separated from it millions of years ago. When it comes to sales pitches, I am known for kicking out of my coverage but this connection is rich even for me. The wine however, is delicious! We move to Cote Rotie next and try the Brune al Blonde next to the single vineyard Ampuis before trying the main event, they are both absolutely stellar.
The La Las are incredible and are one of the rare examples of ludicrously expensive wines being worth the money - as abstract that theory is. La Moulin is my favourite and I am bemused to hear people’s opinions such as "I used to always like Moulin the best, then Turque but now Landonne". Moulin seems the most unusual, an almost unsettling energy that I have not encountered before. When trying wines that are so out of my league I try to simplify things. I generally prefer Cote Rotie made without Viognier (the white grape that has been used in tiny quantities in Cote Rotie until more modern times). I find out that the two that I like most are the Moulin and Turque, both containing rather significant amounts (10% and 11%) of Viognier. The more you taste, the more you realise you know nothing, just enjoy it.
Brett Crittenden, Guigals brand ambassador is a perfect foil for this truly special evening. I wonder will I ever taste these wines again.....