This parcel comes from a vineyard in the Côte Brune and its style is typical of this part of Côte-Rôtie: dark, brooding, spicy and rich, it is a great success.
Product Code: RH34641
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Guigal’s is an extraordinary story of not-quite-rags to riches. Etienne Guigal joined Vidal-Fleury as a humble cellar hand in 1927 and rose to the position of cellar master. In 1946 he left Vidal-Fleury to start in business on his own account and this was quietly successful until his son Marcel joined in 1961. The company then quite simply took off in the most astonishing way. Just before Etienne died in 1988, Guigal bought Vidal-Fleury, thus completing the circle. More recent acquisitions have included Domaine de Vallouit which gave Guigal more land in Cote Rôtie and then Jean-Louis Grippat which suddenly made Guigal important owners in Hermitage as well. In 1995, Guigal bought the ramshackle Château d’Ampuis, just outside René Rostaing’s front door and renovated it with no expense spared. The success of Guigal is founded on extremely hard work and immense skill in the cellar combined with flair and marketing genius. These days Marcel Guigal is often to be found in Paris on French appellation controlée business for the Ministry of Agriculture, in which he is deeply involved. Fortunately, his son Philippe is in every way as brilliant as his father . At the heart of Guigal are the appellations of Côte-Rôtie and Condrieu where the company was at one time responsible for about a third of production. Indeed, Guigal resurrected both appellations, especially Condrieu which had almost disappeared. If the Guigal profile seems to be less important here nowadays, it is only because of the increase in the number of growers making and selling their own wine. Guigal also started the notion of single vineyard Côte-Rôtie bottling wine from his three iconic sites, La Landonne, La Mouline and La Turque under their own names. These are now among the most sought after wines in the world. Guigal’s genius in the cellar is in the élévage process, the way in which he raises the wines in barrel. Every vintage brings a new challenge to maintain the consistency of the Guigal style and this he does with a cleverly-managed combination of old and new oak. The reds are kept up to three years in barrel for good measure. What emerges is a richly textured style, underlying individual wines of true beauty. Recent years have seen expansion and, as a result, a huge programme of investment in new cellars in Ampuis. Though best known for reds and Côte-Rôtie in particular, Guigal’s most recent focus has been on white wines, particularly viognier, the great grape of Condrieu and as a major element in Guigal’s very good white Côtes-du-Rhône.
A narrow, funnel-shaped vineyard extends on both sides of the Rhône from Vienne in the north to Valance in the south. The scenery is often dramatic with many of the vineyards perched precariously on the steep valley sides. The wines match the scenery: deeply coloured, fine, spicy reds made from the syrah grape and rich, full-bodied whites made from marsanne and roussanne grapes, or the more aromatic viognier up in Condrieu. Granite, sandy silica and clay soils predominate though small traces of limestone may also be found in Hermitage, Crozes and Cornas. Production here is relatively small, accounting for less than 3% of the total for the Rhône Valley. Most of the wines are sold by appellation with three being white only, two red only and three others where both red and white can be made. The appellation Côtes-du-Rhône is rarely seen in the north and may well disappear altogether. On the other hand, full use is made of the vin de pays/vin de France category which allows producers to make slightly simpler wines from young vines or from vines that for one reason or another were not included in any appellation.Seyssuel There is no appellation Seyssuel. These steep vineyards on the left bank close to Vienne were once famous but fell into obscurity after phylloxera wiped them out in the 19th century. Since the late 1990s, however, there has been a move to reclaim this valuable land for the vine. Many growers are involved here and the results are extremely good. The wines are broadly similar to Côte-Rôtie in style but maybe riper and more dramatic, the vines, after all, face the evening sun and there is more heat here than in Côte-Rôtie. Full appellation status is probably just a few years away after the efforts of Ogier, Villard and Villa have done so much to put it on the map.Côte-Rôtie Red only. The “roasted slope”, only half an hour’s drive south of Beaujolais, this northernmost outpost of the syrah grape produces wines that at times can match Burgundy for delicacy and charm. The vineyard is very steep with an incline of as much as 60 degrees. Guigal is the most important producer attracting the highest prices, but there are dozens of smallholders making interesting wines. Guigal has made new oak very fashionable and many growers use it sometimes to excess.Condrieu White only from the viognier grape. The scent of apricot in a good example of Condrieu is almost intoxicating. Rapid expansion of vineyards means that there are lots of young vines and therefore wines that lack substance, so there is good reason to get to know the better growers, such as André Perret, François Villard and Christophe Pichon, and follow them..Saint-Joseph Reds from syrah and whites from marsanne and roussanne; reds are more exciting. The best Saint-Josephs have class and can be good value. Some of the best slopes are only now being replanted after years of neglect, so huge potential. Many top producers have started to bring out single-vineyard Saint-Josephs. All can be brilliant and though pricey, offer better value than top-end Côte-Rôties for example. Look for the grower’s name. Crozes-Hermitage Reds are made from syrah and whites from marsanne and roussanne. Crozes-Hermitage accounts for more than half of the northern Rhône and its wines are plentiful and accessible. Reds are better than whites. Crozes-Hermitage comes in two parts. The largest is on the flat, close to the river and what would have been a river bed. It produces deeply coloured reds that are soft and fruity and without question a perfect introduction to the syrah of the north. The other part is behind the hill of Hermitage, sometimes on granite but mostly on white clay and limestone. This is the historic heart of Crozes producing wines of interest and substance and the whites from here can be outstanding too.Hermitage Syrah for reds, marsanne with a little roussanne for whites. This amazing southfacing slope has the greatest pedigree of any wine in the Rhône Valley. Its complex geology ensures added interest and complexity and in good years, Hermitage may sit at the highest tables. The downside is that the quality and reputation of Hermitage wines from the best producers means that there is a very limited supply of the best wines, and prices are set to rise.Cornas Red only from syrah. It is a small appellation nestling in a half amphitheatre of mostly granite, all facing fully south. The climate here is significantly warmer so Cornas is often among the first to harvest. Wines are black, thick and often tannic in their youth. Style is changing and quality is on the up, almost matching Hermitage. Cornas remains an uncompromising wine and rewards good food. Always decant.Saint-Péray White only made from marsanne and roussanne. The granite of Cornas gives way to limestone. The wines have more acidity and keep well. For some unaccountable reason, historically, most of the wine was sparkling but mercifully things are changing. There is big potential for fine whites. Producer’s name is essential. The Drôme Valley This is a major tributary of the Rhône that rises in the Alps and joins up with the Rhône to the south of Valence. At the western end there are a few vineyards, mostly of syrah and sold as Côtes-du- Rhône Brézème. This is rare, very little known and amazingly good-value source for Crozes-like reds. Further east, the landscape becomes more mountainous and the grapes mostly white, clairette and muscat and wines are mostly sparkling. Clairette de Die is light and sweet, a bit like Italian Asti, while Crémant de Die is dry and full-flavoured.
2009 is a fabulous vintage, particularly in the northern Rhône, the result of a long, warm and dry summer. The wines are brimming with fruit and flesh, with a sweetness that can only come from perfectly ripe grapes. Thanks to cool nights there is structure and freshness too, particularly from the north. For the syrah grape this was a particularly successful vintage.Northern RhôneQuite simply, 2009 is the greatest vintage in a long time with the kind of profile that will beckon comparison with the great 1990. It was the result of heat and drought tempered by the rains of winter which provided reserves for the vines to draw on. Fortunately, in July and August the heat was not unrelenting and cool nights gave the grapes respite. Conditions for the harvest were ideal and thought there was a seemingly generous harvest the berries were small and thick skinned with little juice so the final yields were often quite low. Particular stars were the top wines of Hermitage, Cornas and Saint-Joseph, with Crozes-Hermitage worthy of mention across the board for quality and value.Southern RhôneThe south is slightly more uneven. It got so hot here that some vines shut down and for a while stopped the ripening process. Wind and sun caused a good deal of evaporation concentrating the sugars, but the slowing of ripening could fool some growers in to picking when the grapes seemed sweet enough but before phenolic maturation was achieved. Rains that fell in mid-September refreshed the vines and those who were patient picked after this and made some lovely wines as a result.In a hot vintage from which one might expect wines of unremitting power or heaviness it is wonderful to find such balance in the whites. The cool nights in August protected fruit flavours and maintained a lovely acid balance.
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The Society's wine buyers work very closely with our suppliers to determine how best to seal our wines. We list below those closures currently in use with a brief description of each.
A technical cork made up of the remnants from the production of natural corks which are ground down into particles and cleaned and then combined using a food-grade polyurethane glue. A cheaper closure which The Society's buyers discourage suppliers from using.
A technical cork made from cheaper-grade natural cork where the naturally occurring pores are filled with ground down cork particles and then the whole is sealed with a food-grade wax coating. Generally only used for wines with a short shelf-life.
Diam corks look like agglomerate corks but are far superior and are designed to put an end to cork taint and random oxidation. The production process chops cork into pieces and sorts the superior, highly elastic, suberin component from the less elastic lignin, which is discarded. It mixes the suberin with microscopic spheres of the same substance used for contact lenses, which fills the voids between the cork particles reducing porosity to air and increasing elasticity without introducing humidity. Finally the pieces are mixed with a glue and moulded under pressure. The mechanical properties of the cork are guaranteed for a certain minimum number of years depending on the grade of cork - for example Diam 2 is guaranteed for two years; Diam 3, 5 and 10 are also available.
The Champagne cork is 90% agglomerate made from cork off-cuts which are ground down, cleaned, compressed and then glued together with two disks of good quality natural cork glued onto the end which protrudes into the bottle.
Natural corks harvested from the cork oak (Quercus suber) forests in Spain and Portugal have been the closure of choice for wine for the 300 years. The bark of the cork oak is stripped from mature trees every nine years. The planks are stored and then cleaned and graded before the corks are punched out of the wood. For wines destined for long-ageing, high-grade natural corks are still the closure of choice.
Cost-effective synthetic 'corks' made from food-grade plastic with a silicone coating (similar to that used on natural corks). Generally used for wines for short-term cellaring.
A glass stopper with a plastic 'O' ring which acts as an interface between the top of the bottle and the stopper, held in place by a metal, tamper-proof seal. Relatively expensive as a closure and not widely used. Can be removed by hand.
A short natural or agglomerate cork with a plastic or wooden top to enable the stopper to be removed by hand. Traditionally used for whiskies, sherries, Madeira etc.
Aluminium alloy screwcaps made with an expanded polyethylene wadding for the lining. Screwcaps are also known as ROTEs (roll-on tamper evident) or by the brand name (Stelvin is a popular brand). Widely used in Australia and New Zealand and for wines for short-term cellaring. Becoming increasingly sophisticated in terms of allowing differing levels of permeability so mimicking the properties of natural cork offering winemakers more choice depending of the style of wine being made. There is still a lack of sound data regarding the performance of screwcaps for longer-term cellaring.
This is an agglomerate cork with a disk of good-quality natural cork adhered to both ends. A reasonably priced, reliable alternative to natural cork.
This is the metal pilfer-proof cap usually used to seal beer bottles but also used in the production of Champagne and sparkling wine when wines are stored under crown cap before the dosage is added. A few producers use crown caps to seal wine bottles. Open with a standard bottle opener.
Jamie Goode has written an excellent book on the subject of closures for those wishing to find out more (Wine Bottle Closures, Flavour Press).
Alcohol by volume%
Units per standard bottle
The Society includes the alcohol by volume percentage figure for each wine available online, in Lists and offers.
It is generally accepted that alcohol levels in wine have been increasing in the last 20 years. There are many reasons why, but the single most important factor is the vast improvement in vineyard management techniques which have resulted in healthier, riper fruit being harvested. Alcohol is a by-product of the fermentation of sugars in the grapes and the best-quality wines are made from grapes that have reached physiological ripeness (colour, flavour and tannin), and this generally happens after sugar ripeness.
There are several techniques that can be used to reduce alcohol levels but currently most are intrusive and strip flavour as well as alcohol and we don't buy wines made in this way. In actual fact, more than half of our still table wines have an abv of 13% or less. Members looking to choose wines with lower levels of alcohol can now search our range by level of alcohol.
Excellent-quality wine is at the heart of everything we do at The Wine Society and balance is the single most important feature of quality. The interaction of a wine's main components of sugar, acidity, tannin, alcohol and flavour matter more than the actual level of alcohol. A well-made wine of 14.5%, for example, will taste more balanced than an inferior-quality wine with 10% alcohol. Furthermore, alcohol levels are only a guide to a wine's fullness: a 12.5% cabernet sauvignon may feel heavier and more full-bodied in the mouth than, say, a gamay of 13.5%. Members should refer to the wine's tasting note for a description of the style and fullness of the wine.
The Society is committed to promoting the responsible enjoyment of wines and spirits by providing relevant information to our members that allows them to make their own informed choices. An additional figure is beginning to be used on labels: the number of (UK) units of alcohol contained in that bottle. This is simply the alcohol by volume percentage multiplied by the content. Thus a 13% wine in a standard 75cl bottle will have 9.7 units of alcohol. All new labels of Society and Exhibition wines will include this information. drinkaware.co.uk
The Society's buyers provide recommended drink dates for all of our wines to help members decide the right time to pop the cork.
Should be drunk over the coming months, certainly within the year.
Now to 2016
Ready to drink now but will keep until 2016.
2018 to 2042
We recommend keeping longer before opening. In 2018 it will be ready to drink but still young and will keep until 2042. It's a matter of personal taste when such wines should be drunk. Many members prefer to try the wines over many years from the opening drink date to the last to watch the wine evolve.
Within one year of purchase
A non-vintage wine that should be drunk within 12 months.
Within two years of purchase
A non-vintage wine that is ready now but will keep for two years.
As a general rule, most everyday white wines are best enjoyed within a year of purchase, and most everyday reds within two years.
Certain fine wines, however, those with the right structure and balance, have the ability to evolve over time and gain complexity and finer nuances of flavour.
Savouring the wonderfully complex and intense bouquet and flavour of a wine drank at its peak is undoubtedly one of life's greatest pleasures. As with people, the ageing process will vary from wine to wine. Over the years the wine's primary aromas of fresh fruit will develop more complicated and persistent secondary and tertiary aromas. The fruity flavours of, for example, a premier cru white Burgundy will, over time, evolve buttery, toasty and yeast aromas, or fine reds may develop coffee, cedar, tobacco, vegetal, or even 'animal' flavours as they age.
There is much pleasure to be had by experimenting with bottles at different stages of maturity; finding out how a wine evolves with age and, perhaps more importantly, establishing your own preference in terms of taste for mature wine are all part of the interest and excitement of cellaring wine.
The drinking window we provide is a guide to when the wines will be at their best. Many will favour the wines in the youthful early stages of their development; others will enjoy the wines at their most mature.
Decanting is a useful way of softening the tannins, rounding out the flavours and releasing the potential of a young wine. To find out more please visit our Serving Wine guide.
The Society's purpose-built, temperature-controlled Members' Reserves offers members access to optimum storage conditions for their wines.
For more help and advice about how best to enjoy your wines contact us via our enquiry form.
Oak plays a very important role in the production of wine throughout the world. However, the level of oak detectible in a wine can vary depending on a number of factors – for example, the age and size of the barrel and the type of oak used, as well as the length of time the wine is aged in wood. Oak also influences the structure and tannins of the final wine. For wines on our website, we use the following classifications:
This suggests that a wine has either seen no oak at all, or may have been produced using very large, old oak barrels, resulting in a wine that has no taste of oak. Expect these wines to be crisp, fruit-forward and aromatic.
Some oak has been used in the production, yet it has not been a defining factor in the style of the wine. In this instance, the oak may have played more of a part in the structure of the wine but there will still be discreet flavours associated with the use of new oak.
Wines that are defined by and known for their use of new oak. This must not be confused with a wine which is 'overly oaky' as that would purely be down to bad winemaking! We buy only wines that, we believe, use oak in a balanced and appealing way, enhancing flavour and complexity, and/or imparting structure.
How detectable oak is depends a good deal on the size of the barrel and how new it is. New oak provides a much more evident flavour and aroma and must be used carefully. The size of the barrel is important, as the smaller the barrel, the more surface area of the wine is in contact with the wood and the more flavour will be drawn out. Often, very large old oak barrels are used, which impart little or no oak flavour to the wine at all. They will still bring an extra dynamic to the final taste of a wine though, when compared to stainless steel or concrete vessels, as oak is porous and therefore lets a small amount of air into the barrel. This controlled oxidation has a positive effect on wines, softening the tannins and developing secondary flavours, all helping to add a complexity which comes with age.
There are many ways that people rate wines, whether it is on the 100 or 20 point scales, 5 stars, 3 glasses or simply thumbs up or down. The pleasure of a bottle of wine is hard to express in figures, but it does help give the memory of that wine a context, and a way of sharing your opinion with others.
In response to members' requests we have added a star rating option to the site so you can mark your favourites, or maybe those occasional less-than-welcome experiences, and make your next order easier.
You can use the 5-star rating tool to record your experiences however you wish, but if you are looking for some guidance we believe that a focus on the 'value' of the wine takes into account the quality but also the pleasure it provided, and whether it is something you would recommend to friends.