The Guigal family lives and works just 45 minutes north of Saint-Joseph, but it was circumstance in 1999 that brought them to several extraordinary sites in Saint-Joseph they eventually purchased. They are not only converts, but among the most vocal advocates about the extraordinary depth and complexity that wines from the great sites of Saint-Joseph can display. The wines can share some of the same smoldering black fruit and spice character as their neighbors across the river in Hermitage, but they are less brooding, more composed when young, and in general wines of finesse rather than power.
The 30 mile long district of Saint Joseph, along the Western bank of the Rhône, extends from the southern part of Condrieu, through and around the town of Tournon, to the northern boundary of Cornas. It comprises nearly 2,500 acres, planted about 90% to Syrah and 10% to Marsanne and Roussanne. Guigal only works in the southern area of Saint Joseph, on intensely steep hillside sites. This area around Tournon and south to Mauves is the true heart and origin of the appellation.
Guigal’s vineyards are among the best in the appellation, and situated on hillsides with complex soils of decomposed granite with limestone and sandy granite topoils that produce spicy and structured wines of 100% Syrah. This Saint Joseph Rouge is comprised of fruit from the exceptional vineyards of Domaine J. L. Grippat (purchased in 2000, the “Rolls Royce of Saint-Joseph”) and de Vallouit (purchased in 2001). Vines average in age from 20 to 50 years.
How Guigal came to own these vineyards needs its own chapter, but we will try to summarize. In short, the Guigals for years wanted to purchase land in Hermitage. Jean-Louis Grippat, considered the best producer in Saint Joseph at the time, had no heirs interested in taking over his family business, and told the Guigals he was going to sell his vineyards, including land he owned in Hermitage. The catch was that the sale was all or nothing; he would not parcel out his vineyard holdings.
Marcel and Philippe drove the 45 minutes down to Saint-Joseph from Côte-Rôtie, and somberly discussed in the car how they would have to explain to Jean-Louis that they were not interested. It was not something they could do over the phone, hence the drive. When they arrived, rather than sitting down for a discussion, Jean-Louis took them right to his Saint-Joseph vineyards. Though they live only 45 minutes north, the Guigals had never seen the region through the eyes of one of its top producers, and never walked vineyards of this quality. They fell in love, and made the purchase. Another portion of the vineyard was acquired when they purchased the spectacular holdings in Hermitage and Saint-Joseph of the De Vallouit family (this time they didn’t need convincing about Saint-Joseph).
The 100% Syrah is fermented in stainless steel, left to rise to high temperature. Aging was for 24 months in second use barrels, all coopered by Guigal at Château d’Ampuis.
When Marcel Guigal called 2015 “the vintage of a lifetime” and on par with 1929, 1947 and 1961,″ the anticipation while Guigal carried out their customary extended aging was almost too much to bear. From a vintage nearly as perfect as you could get, from vine dormancy right through harvest, the wines are spellbinding, with an utterly perfect balance of charm, complexity, and power.
Replenishing rain in the winter restored the water tables to supply the plants with nutrients, and then abundant sunshine and warmth helped the vines mature the berries to perfection as the generous diurnal shift maintained the acidity and freshness of the fruit. To buy, drink, age and, above all, enjoy as often as possible!
Dark red with violet tints. The powerful nose is dominated by red berries and delicate oak aromas. The approach is direct on the palate and dominated by fruit, with immediately apparent round and supple tannins.
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James Molesworth, Wine Spectator - “Inviting, with a core of warm raspberry, fig and blackberry compote flavors with roasted apple wood and anise notes. Shows brambly grip through the finish.”
More on E. Guigal Saint-Joseph 2015
December 13, 2018 - The Guigal 2015 Saint-Joseph and 2014 Cotes du Rhone Blanc were featured in a high-end wine roundup on local Ohio news website Cleveland.com. Wine writer Marc Bona, who typically recommends…
November 19, 2018 - Wine blogger Fredric Koeppel shared his admiration for Guigal in his piece, “What I Want Wine to Be, Part One.” The Bigger Than Your Head writer included the Saint-Joseph 2015…
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.