Côte-Rôtie Château d’Ampuis 2014
What a story. Etienne Guigal, working in the cellars of a local winery, is swimming in the Rhone river off the docks near the Château d’Ampuis. He meets a lovely girl, who works as a maid at the Château d’Ampuis, a historic property whose oldest sections date to the 11th century, where Kings of France have visited and slept, and symbol of the town of Ampuis and the world-renowned Côte-Rôtie vineyard area for ten centuries. In 1995, 7 years after Etienne passed away, his son Marcel Guigal purchased the Château, and spent 11 years restoring it, with over 100 people working on the project, all overseen by France’s Chief Architect of Historic Monuments.
Early on, when the Guigal family learned that there was at one time a wine produced with the Château d’Ampuis name, and they were able to trace the vineyards that were used in this original wine, they decided to produce an exceptional wine that would showcase the best that Côte-Rôtie has to offer.
Today Château d’Ampuis is made from 7 exceptional vineyards from both sides of Côte-Rôtie, the Côte Blonde and the Côte Brune, and vines averaging 50 years of age. These are exceptional vineyards, and in fact every vineyard is adjoining one of the three Guigal single vineyard crus, La Mouline, La Landonne and La Turque.
The vineyards are in the Côte Blonde as follows: Le Clos, La Garde, and La Grande Plantée; and in the Côte Brune: La Pommière, Le Pavillon Rouge, Le Moulin and La Viria.
Ampuis is composed of 93% Syrah and 7% Viognier, and aged in the same manner as the Guigal single-vineyard crus, with a 4 week maceration and alcoholic fermentation followed by 38 months in new barrels that are all made at the estate.
2014 is a great example of how the steep hillsides of Côte-Rôtie, and within them the favored plots, can withstand weather variations to produce wines with ample fruit. There was trying variation of rain and dry weather, but in the end fruit flies were the major issue in the region, causing very low yields, but the quality of the wines was good, and in some cases very good. With a calm end of August through most of September, ripening occurred in good plots tended by good growers, and the wines have fruit, even a generosity, and an openness. Not easy, but the wines are better each time and more substantial on each return.
The hallmark of Château d’Ampuis is an unbelievably seductive perfume full of sweet black fruits and spices, and an elegance despite the intense concentration of fruit (prunes, blackberry) and tannin. Château d’Ampuis defines what a great Côte-Rôtie should be with its beautiful balance, muscular complexity and length.
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Wine Spectator - “This is frankly toasted, with mocha and bacon notes leading off. The core of dark currant and cherry preserve flavors has the stuffing to match, while singed bay leaf and dried sage accents infuse the finish. Shows the cool profile of the vintage, along with very admirable depth and ripeness. Best from 2021 through 2038.”
Josh Raynolds, Vinous Media - "Deep bright-rimmed ruby. Sexy, highly perfumed aromas of ripe dark berries, cherry pie, olive and pungent flowers are sharpened by a suggestion of peppery spices. Supple and appealingly sweet, offering concentrated blackberry, cherry cola and violet pastille flavors and an exotic suggestion of star anise. Finishes pure, sweet and focused on the penetrating finish, showing outstanding focus and smooth tannins."
Other Wines by this Producer
Guigal’s Côtes du Rhône Blanc both sets and steps outside the standard for the appellation and showcases one of the great secrets of the Guigal family: their specialization in the great white Rhône varieties. While only 8% of the Rhône's production is white, a full 25% of Guigal’s production is white and they are today the single largest producer of whites in the Rhône Valley.
The Guigal family has made serious rosé wines since the 1940s, and their Côtes du Rhône Rosé, like all their Côtes du Rhône wines, is humble in name only. The wine bursts with irresistible fresh red fruits and yet is also long and satisfying. Because of its quality and body, it's a rosé that you can bring to the table, and do so all year long. It is a rosé that offers both refreshment and pleasure.
Given that this particular wine can be the introduction to the entire Rhône Valley for a drinker, as well as the position they occupy in the Rhône, it is not enough for the Guigals to make a good Côtes du Rhône. They are relentlessly driven to produce a distinctive and outstanding wine that drives interest in exploring the entirety of the Rhône.
Crozes-Hermitage can be considered the gateway to the red and white wines of the Northern Rhône Valley. The reds, which are the majority of production, have wonderful warm flavors of red and black fruit, and typical Syrah pepper, spice and savory notes.
Crozes-Hermitage can be considered the gateway to the red and white wines of the Northern Rhône Valley. 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 expresiveness and brightness while also capturing the warmth of the area. Explosive and exotic floral and fruit aromas and flavors meld with intense mineral notes, and the silky, powerful concentration of flavors has an appealing roundness that finishes remarkably fresh.
Guigal’s Gigondas is an incredible introduction to serious Southern Rhône reds, and a show-stopper at the price. In the hands of Guigal, the rich ripe fruit and savory character of the wine bursts with sheer pleasure, yet the wine displays terrific refinement, complexity, length and ability to age.
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.
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.
Guigal is synonymous with the Côte-Rôtie area, for bringing this great wine region to prominence, and for owning three times as much land as next largest land-owner, vinifiying 1/3 of the total appellation, and unquestionably holding the finest sites in this tiny, special area. The incredible Syrah from this area, co-fermented with a touch of Viognier, has tremendously balanced concentration, depth and finesse.
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.