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.