Utter perfection, the 2005 Cote Rotie La Landonne exhibits a similar scorched earth/burning ember and bacon fat-scented nose as well as copious quantities of black fruits, truffles, and forest floor. Incredibly dense and masculine with unreal levels of concentration, and beautifully integrated tannin, acidity, and oak, this remarkable 2005 may turn out to be the longest-lived La Landonne since the debut vintage of 1978 (which is still going strong). Cellar this cuvee for 5-6 years, and consume it over the following 35+ years. While the entire world of wine knows how profound Guigal's red wines are, they may not know that he continues to demonstrate a complete mastery of white wine varietals, from his lowly Cotes du Rhone blend of Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Clairette, and Bourboulenc, to his seriously-endowed dry whites from the northern Rhone. Over recent years, Guigal has been attempting to produce an interesting, fairly-priced, delicious Crozes-Hermitage. (The overall level of quality from this complex appellation is less than exciting.) Guigal is becoming one of the most important producers of high quality St.-Joseph. He fashions three cuvees, a general appellation offering, his St.-Joseph Lieu-Dit St.-Joseph, and the limited production Vignes de l'Hospice, which comes from high elevation, steeply terraced vines planted at the top of the small mountain that dominates the town of Tournon. Along with Chapoutier's St.-Joseph Les Granits, Guigal's Vignes de l'Hospice is one of the most profound wines of the appellation. It comes from a 5.5 acre parcel at the top of the small mountain that dominates the town of Tournon. The soils are decomposed granite with essentially the same soil base as the great vineyard of Hermitage across the river known as Les Bessards. One can argue that by producing the Cote Rotie Chateau d'Ampuis, Guigal is pulling some high quality material away from his Brune et Blonde, and it seems to me that only in the greatest vintages is the Brune et Blonde as consistent as it was in the past. That said, the Chateau d'Ampuis is superb. This cuvee comes from some of the top vineyards planted on the steep hillsides of Cote Rotie, such as Le Clos, La Grande Plantee, La Pommiere, Pavillon Rouge, Le Moulin, and Guigal's most recent purchase, La Viria, which I suspect will become another single vineyard Cote Rotie in a few years. There are around 2,000 cases of this cuvee, and it is aged 30 or more months in 100% new oak. Guigal's single vineyard Cote Roties are other-worldly in nearly every vintage. I have given these offerings more perfect scores than any other wines in the world. They represent three completely different expressions of Cote Rotie, and are made in limited quantities. There are about 1,000 cases of La Landonne, and 500-600 cases each of La Mouline and La Turque. La Mouline, which includes the highest percentage of co-fermented Viognier (11%), is always the more delicate, voluptuous wine with the most complex aromatics. La Turque is a denser, more gamy, meaty effort with approximately 7% Viognier co-fermented. It comes across as a completely different style of wine. La Landonne, which is grown in pure schist on the steep hillsides of the northern-most sector of the appellation, is 100% Syrah. It is the densest, most concentrated, masculine, and tannic of these three cuvees. Regardless of the vintage's style and personality, La Mouline will always be the most flattering to drink young, followed by La Turque, and lastly by La Landonne. All three of these offerings are aged for a remarkably long, 42 month period in 100% new oak barrels (but they are never oaky), and are bottled unfined and unfiltered. They typically have 30+ years of longevity in top vintages. In short, they are singular expressions of greatness from spectacular vineyards that are brought to fruition with non-interventionalistic, creative yet distinctive winemaking. A re-visit to the 2004s has proven that Guigal's long barrel aging can produce wines that are often better out of bottle than they were early in cask, a common occurrence at Guigal.
Still tight, with a wall of mocha and raspberry ganache covering the massive core of fig fruit, hoisin sauce and plum cake notes. This is extremely dense but remarkably polished, with a long, tongue-penetrating finish that drips of fruit and spice laid over massive grip. Best from 2012 through 2034.
Another candidate for perfection is the 2005 Cote Rotie La Landonne. Its inky/blue/purple color is followed by a perfume of confit of duck, smoked meats, blackberries, espresso, and tapenade. Incredibly complex with superb concentration, amazing depth, full body, and huge tannins in the finish, it will not be ready to drink for 5-8 years; it should keep for 30-35 years. As always, a tasting at Guigal is an opportunity to receive several years' worth of wine education in one day (that's how long it takes to go through all the bottles and barrels). Marcel Guigal is obviously a brilliant businessman, but most importantly, he understands vineyards, how to get maximum quality from them, and how to make wines, at all different price levels. From his Cotes du Rhones to Cote Roties, these wines are as good as one is likely to find. When I first visited Guigal nearly thirty years ago, this was a relatively small firm. Today, his may be the most successful wine operation in France. Guigal attributes his success to hard work and never being satisfied with the status quo. He pays the highest prices of any negociant for the fruit used to fashion his Cotes du Rhone as well as other negociant wines. He has also been extraordinarily adept at buying fabulous terroirs, as evidenced by his purchase of the De Vallouit properties in Crozes-Hermitage and Hermitage as well as Grippat's top-notch vineyard holdings in St.-Joseph. Along with the late Thomas Jefferson, Guigal has always believed that white Hermitage is France's greatest white wine. With his recent acquisitions of superb vineyard sites, he is hell-bent on proving to the world that Jefferson was correct - that white Hermitage is an amazing as well as long-lived wine. In top vintages, two cuvees are produced, the regular offering (usually a blend of primarily Marsanne with a touch of Roussanne) and the luxury cuvee called Ex-Voto, which is generally 95% Marsanne and 5% Roussanne from two stunning vineyards. Eighty percent comes from Les Murets (regarded as one of the appellation's finest white wine vineyards) and 20% from l'Ermite.Tasting through Guigal's new and up-coming releases confirms his legendary consistency. He is the quintessential multitasker, fashioning inexpensive fine wines as well as super-luxurious, utterly profound reds and whites. When Guigal purchased the Grippat holdings, he received six acres of the Vignes de l'Hospice, a stunningly steep, photogenic vineyard at the top of the northern sector of St.-Joseph, looking down on the town of Tournon. These are the same decomposed granitic soils found across the river in Hermitage's Les Bessards vineyard. Everything Guigal has produced from this vineyard has been as profound as St.-Joseph can be. In fact, his only competitor is Michel Chapoutier's 500 or so cases of St.-Joseph Les Granits. Marcel's talented son, Philippe, is taking over more and more of the business, and appears more than capable of filling the extraordinary shoes of his father, who I doubt will ever retire. I reviewed Guigal's Cotes du Rhones and Chateauneuf du Papes in issue #173 (October, 2007), but he also continues to be an active buyer of high quality juice from Gigondas. He accomplishes this by tasting hundreds of samples, visiting 50-60 caves, and paying the highest price for his purchases. Guigal is unquestionably the most important producer of Cote Rotie. He buys grapes from nearly four dozen small growers, and supplements that from his own holdings. The single vineyard cuvees are excluded from this blend, but all his Cote Roties are vinified in his cellars. Guigal produces around 2,000 cases of Cote Rotie Chateau d'Ampuis, a cuvee he first made in 1995. About 7% Viognier is included in the blend, and the sources for the fruit are all fabulous sites from both the Cote Blonde and Cote Brune. According to Guigal, research in France's National Archives prove that in its past, Chateau d'Ampuis produced Cote Rotie from these same sites