Mon 29 Jun 2015

Rhône Masterclass: Guigal and Chapoutier

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A couple of weeks ago two of the Rhône’ iconic figures came to London.

In the evening Philippe Guigal made his first appearance at a Society event, showing his wines over dinner to a hundred members assembled at the Bleeding Heart restaurant near Farringdon.

Famille Guigal

Famille Guigal

When The Society first began buying from Guigal, that company was most clearly associated with Côte-Rôtie and Condrieu, and little else. But the intervening years has seen the business expand hugely.

There were corporate acquisitions that brought in valuable new vineyards, not only on Côte-Rôtie and Condrieu but also on Hermitage and Saint-Joseph. Fabulous new cellars were built in Ampuis allowing for further expansion. Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône (£9.95), for example has become an important wine and The Society is very pleased indeed to be among the many stockists of this impeccable wine.

Head of Tastings Simon Mason busy opening the wines at Bleeding Heart.

Head of Tastings Simon Mason busy opening the wines at Bleeding Heart

For the dinner, Guigal opened the evening with the viognier-based 2013 white which we will welcome to our range very shortly. That was before a lovely bottle of 2012 Saint-Joseph Blanc and their exceptional 2011 Saint-Joseph Rouge (£19). At the heart of the tasting, the 2008 vintage was tasted across the Côte-Rôtie range. The vintage is now fully ready and a joy to sip, perfect with dishes on show (we still have some stock of the 2008 La Turque at £134). Philippe was engaging and eloquent and this will not be his last visit to The Wine Society.

Earlier in day, I attended a masterclass in London: a tasting of the 2014 vintage with Michel Chapoutier in the chair. This was my first real chance to taste some top wines from this vintage. Not the easiest of vintages, 2014 had started with a warm, dry spring but then suffered a cool summer which delayed ripening before fine weather returned in September.

The whites, picked in early September were brilliant and it is clear that 2014 will be a great vintage for white Rhônes. This was really the result of the cool summer which meant that acidities were preserved rather than burnt away. Harvesting the reds later in September and through to October was trickier as the warm September was not without rain. The steep slopes of Hermitage and Saint-Joseph are of course well placed to cope with sudden heavy rains as the water naturally drains away easily.

The Chapoutier wines are brilliant: very dark in colour, fragrant and very fine with elegant tannins and nicely etched fruit flavours. I shall now look forward to my next trip to the Rhône in November.

Marcel Orford-Williams
Society Buyer

Categories : France, Rhône

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