La-La land


E.Guigal Rhone wine tasting

I was pleased to attend a wine tasting of selected wines from the noted producer E.Guigal a little while ago. It was hosted by Negociants rep Brett Crittenden, and Meredith Parkin of Glengarry Wines and Spirits. A small crew were in attendance, including a few rogues from the MS.

Brett Crittenden is a very engaging raconteur, and set the scene for us well.

Guigal was established in 1946 by Étienne Guigal, who had worked for Vidal Fleury for 15 years before setting up his own business. It has been managed by his son Marcel Guigal since 1961.

Guigal, under Marcel Guigal, came to international fame in the early- to mid-1980s when Robert M. Parker, Jr. followed by other wine critics heaped praise on Guigal’s top Côte-Rôtie wines, in particular the three single vineyard wines La Mouline, La Landonne and La Turque.

The Rhone valley is divided into Northern and Southern zones. The north has a cool climate, well suited to Syrah. The South has a Mediterranean climate, and better for Grenache, Carignan etc. E. Guigal source grapes from their own properties, from contract growers, and from other suppliers as juice. The area boasts many appellations, and we were fortunate to try wines from several over the course of the session.

E.Guigal make a lot of wine…

We started off with a heavy-weight white, a complex and concentrated way to begin the tasting:

Guigal Lieu-Dit St Joseph Blanc 2014 – $88 – an exceptional vintage. 95% Marsanne with 5% Rousanne, grown on granite soils, and aged in 100% new oak. 100 years ago this wine was France’s most expensive white, and is still a ‘cheffy’ favourite with food.  My notes say: oak, vanilla and honey on nose. Lifted, perfumed. Lovely fruit expression. Remarkable. To taste: packed, structural, power and tension, with mineralite. On sitting, I saw viscosity and spice emerge from the glass, like a Viognier from nearby Condrieu. 94 points.

Side Note: From Wkipedia: Lieu-dit (plural: lieux-dits) (literally said-location) is a French toponymic term for a small geographical area bearing a traditional name. The name usually refers to some characteristic of the place, its former use, a past event, etc. English speakers seem to have discovered the concept through oenology and have considered it as a wine term which in its typical usage translates as “vineyard name” or “named vineyard”. Typically, a lieu-dit is the smallest piece of land which has a traditional vineyard name assigned to it. In most cases, this means that a lieu-dit is smaller than an appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC).

Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2014 – $24 – Light and fruity – red apples. Good acid, crystal clear finish, no bitterness.  86 points.

Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2012 – $22 – Can you believe this? 4,000,000 bottles of this wine was made from a blend of some 40-odd parcels. Incredible, and to get such uniformity across the bottling, and across the vintages as well. Apparently 7000 bottles are shipped to the restaurants of Lyon daily. Cleaner than previous vintages, this wine still displays typical character. Warm, enveloping nose. Plummy, soft, with medium tannins. A great food wine, and for everyday drinking. Holds its shape well in the glass. The winemakers rightly take great pride in this wine.  89  points.

Guigal Chateauneuf du Pape 2010 – $79 – From the Rhone’s original appellation: 3000 hectares. 28 growers. 60-100 year old Grenache vines. Elegant and spicy. Aroma notes of pencil shavings, graphite and herbs. Shows a clear identity. Nervous. Dense. Showing richness of the Grenache. Plums, sour cherries, raspberries. A grainy textural finish. Delicious. 92 points.

Guigal Crozes Hermitage 2012 – $50 – From off 1200 hectares arrayed around the base of the hill of Hermitage. 100% bought-in juice. Fermented in 3rd-use oak. Funky on the nose, feral and almost gamey.  A cool climate style – lean, light, with lighter ripeness of fruit, with cutting acid, sour cherry, celery leaf and capsicum. Burgundian in its expression. 87  points.

Guigal St Joseph Rouge 2012 – $59 – 100% Syrah, from bought-in fruit and own grapes. Soft and fruity on nose, and immediately more attractive to me than the preceding Crozes Hermitage. There was depth of ripe fruit, soft, with plenty of flavour and richness, along the lines of the CdR Rouge, but with more character. 90 points.

Then we got into the three heavyweights reds of the tasting….


Guigal Hermitage Rouge 2010 – $149 – From a stunning vintage. Wines aged in 60% new oak for 36 months. I saw power, opulence and richness. Silky, spicy. Sweet entry, acid balance, amazing fruit intensity, tight grained. Long, long. Absolutely amazing. 96 points.

Guigal Cote Rotie 2011 – $145 – From the Côte Brune and Côte Blonde. Own vineyards. Again aged in 60% new oak. Perfumed, ethereal, such grace! It explodes in the mouth, then shows tight and linear and refined. Perfect physiological ripeness. Silky tannins. Absolutely amazing again. 97 points.

Guigal La Mouline 2006 – $250-450 – One of the famous La-la vineyards, along with La Landonne  and La Turque. La Mouline is a vineyard-designated wine from a parcel inside the lieu-dit Côte Blonde. A blend of 11% Viognier and 89% Syrah and therefore often the most floral of the three top wines. Produced from 100 year old vines, aged for 40 months in new oak. 6000 bottles made. This particular bottle was ferreted out from Glengarry’s store rooms for the tasting. A repeat tasting would be likely impossible. It was feminine, oh so rich and oh so opulent. Enveloping. Mouthcoating. It went on and on. An exemplar of what heights a Rhone rouge can attain. 98 points.

What’s in the glass tonight October 17th – Pinot Gris


From the Cellar: Hans Herzog Pinot Gris Marlborough 2015 – $$$

This wine comes from a long-established and committed artisan organic wine producer in Marlborough. The producer boasts 29 different grape varieties planted on the property. We enjoyed their cellar door hospitality on our last visit down south very much.


Orange mandarin blush. 13.5% alc.

Light and savoury on nose, a little hesitant to open up. I coaxed aromas of melon, soft pear and Turkish delight from the glass. It hinted at funky, and ‘worked’.

To drink, I tasted light strawberries and baking spice, apple. A soft mouthfeel initially, with a good citrus line throughout. Medium length. Finished grassy.

An appealing Gris with an attractive colour in the glass. Although it wasn’t presented as such at their Cellar Door when we first tasted it, but this wine could well fall under the category of “orange wine”. If so, it would be my first…

89 points

What’s in the glass tonight October 12th – Pinot Noir


From the Cellar: Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir Central Otago 2011 – $$$+

Another wine from one of New Zealand’s vinous rock stars.

Deep pinot ruby. 14% alc. Leggy.

Gorgeous perfumed nose. Savoury and hot, with brambly black cherries, herbs and thyme. Showing a deep intensity of bold fruit.

To drink the wine started sweet on attack, and was savoury through the mid-palate, and a herbal note towards the end. Ripe, finely textured, well balanced. Hot finish.

This is a very fine, yet grunty, pinot. Wants another five years to really exhibit its class. Shame I haven’t got another bottle..


95 points

Felton Road Block 3


What’s in the glass tonight Oct 11th – Pinot Noir


Te Hera Estate Kiritea Pinot Noir Martinborough 2013 – $$

A find this was! Showing intense perfume, layered, with savoury characters so typical of M’bo pinots.  Dark cherries, heady spic, powerful. Perfect ripeness allowing for a hint of cool climate leafiness to aid florality.

Could sniff this all day…

The promise on nose extended to the mouth. Great fruit weight and body. Robust and textural, acid through the mid-palate, with a grainy finish. Heat and length at the death.

Perhaps off young vines, as it died a little in the glass over time.

Still, fabulous, & a bargain.

92 points

What’s in the glass tonight October 10th – Sauvignon Blanc


From the Cellar: Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2011 – $$$+

Oak fermented, with wild yeasts, this is one of NZ’s vinous rock stars – an icon, a unique wine, a sensory delight. I love it.

Pale gold. 13.5% alc.

Great refinement and complexity on nose. An aromatic delight with notes of citrus and golden fruit.

There was a lovely texture, depth to the wine in the mouth. It was expressive and distinctive – it spoke of place and winemaking craft. There was the sweetness of perfect ripe fruit. It lacked the assertive grassy-capsicum-ness of its stablemate, a relief. Exceptionally long for a savvy.


95 points

What’s in the glass tonight October 8th – Two Wellington Craft Beers


Garage Project Brewery brews tasty beers, they choose top names for their beverages, their graphic design team create great packages for the products, and the tap room is a proper hipster hangout. What is not to like?

I brought two cans back from the supermarket to try over dinner…

Garage Project Hapi Daze Pacific Pale Ale

Deep Amber, 4.8% alc.

Hapi is ‘hop’ in Te Reo (Maori). This beers is blessed with a brewers medley of NZ barley, and Motueka Wai-iti, Riwaka, and Nelson Sauvin hops.

An aromatic, hopped perfume, with caramel and citrus notes. Bags of flavour, delicious and hoppy, with lively carbonation balanced with caramel sweetness. Finishes soft and long.

Garage Project Garagista IPA

Cloudy Amber, 5.8% alc.

A sharper citrus aroma hit, hint of vanilla biscuit.

Intense flavours of hops and barley in the mouth, sharp and immediate, assertive, nice. A typical crafty Kiwi take on an IPA. Not a session beer – too big on the alcohol.

Hapi Daze was the tastiest, tonight.

What’s in the glass tonight October 5th – Riesling


Astrolabe Valleys Riesling Wairau Valley Marlborough 2014 – $

On Spring special at Regional Wines…this took a while to settle down after opening…a somewhat aggressive dry style of Riesling…

11.5% alc. Pale greenish straw colour.

Dry, lean and austere. Lots of citrus notes, & apples… a  premonition of lip-puckering flavours ahoy …with perhaps the occasional wince…

This wine had lots of character. Very assertive, and not so much built for ‘easy drinking’. Some will love this. It took me a few bottles over a couple of weeks to understand it and not freak out too much. Decant, and let it stand for a while. The acid starts to soften, and the fruit shows through. It has an expressive nose from the get-go, which helps a lot.

A hot day’s aperitif, or to accompany sweet seafood and you won’t go wrong.

88 points

What’s in the glass tonight October 2nd – Chardonnay


Escarpment Chardonnay Martinborough 2011 – $$

L and I stayed the night at the Martinborough Hotel to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. We didn’t get there until mid-afternoon, but managed to fit in a cheeky 50km ride out towards Lake Ferry and back via Kahutara Rd before dinner at Pinnochio Restaurant just off the main square. Very nice it was as well. They ran out of the dessert that L was keen on, so we shared a dessert and sticky back at the hotel.

This wine I chose as an aperitif before dinner…

Pale straw. 13.5%

Refined bouquet. Elegant. Some mealy aromas. Citrus dominant.

Lean & austere, somewhat sharp with citrus & minerals. Crisp, fresh and short. No where near as warm and full as the 2012 we drank a month ago…

Not destined to be a favourite, and somewhat fragile, as the flavours did not survive the trip back into town the next day.

84 points