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 hand harvested and sorted, then fermented at high temperatures in stainless steel vats. Aging was for 24 months in second use barrels, all coopered by Guigal at Château d’Ampuis.
Following the classic 2016 vintage, 2017 in the Northern Rhône was a vintage of contrasts and challenges. After a very dry winter, spring was wet with hail and frost in some areas, reducing the crop considerably. Summer was characterized by periods of extreme drought, which continued through the fall, interrupted by some needed rain in early September. The fruit was clean and extremely concentrated, producing forward, fruity wines of balance, length and depth. A great result!
Dark red with violet tints.The nose is powerfully dominated by red berries and delicate oak aromas. The palate opens with a rather powerful attack of round and supple tannins.
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Jeb Dunnuck -
"Lots of mineral and bacon fat notes in its smoky red and black fruits and floral aromatics, medium-bodied richness, nicely integrated acidity, and that classic Saint-Joseph sense of minerality. It's beautifully balanced and well worth a case purchase for the Syrah lovers out there!"
Vinous Media -
"Opaque ruby. Ripe black and blue fruits, olive, black pepper and a peony note on the highly perfumed nose. Palate-caressing blackberry, cherry and spicecake flavors display fine detail and deepen as the wine slowly opens up. The spicy, persistent finish features broad, even tannins that fold quickly into the wine's sappy, clinging dark fruit."
More on E. Guigal Saint-Joseph 2017
October 28, 2020 - James Molesworth of Wine Spectator feature's legendary Rhône Valley producer E. Guigal in this weeks producer spotlight. Molesworth says that, despite the recent purchases of Domaine Les Clefs d’Or and…
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.