Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.

Review of the Tasting:
This was a wonderful tasting.  It attracted keen winemakers and viticulturists from both Hawkes Bay,  and Martinborough,  something which at the discussion stage makes a tasting special for Wellington-based people.  In introducing the wines,  I commented that over and over again,  my experience had been that if you wanted to share a special bottle with people who liked wine but were not label-conscious wine aficionados,  then Guigal bottlings gave extraordinary pleasure at table.  And this tasting showed why:  12 wines spanning 27 years,  yet all of them would be marvellous with a meal.  And in a technical sense,  in this report (but by a person who likes old wine,  note),  none of the 12 are marked at less than 17 points,  or silver medal level.  

Most people were there for the four Guigal grands crus wines from the 2003 vintage,  each and every one of them a 100-point wine for Robert Parker.  Tasters found this a real thrill,  for it is pretty rare to have such a tasting opportunity.  But the sequence of five Cote Rotie Brune & Blonde wines from 2010 back to 1983 also created much interest.  As did the three Gigondas spanning the same time frame:  the 1983 was simply delicious.  Yet wine know-alls do not even allow that such a wine could be even drinkable:  wine-searcher.com simply does not list it – nor any Guigal Gigondas from the 1980s.  Interesting,  unbelievable to me,  and sad.

Some of the most exciting bottles from this exhilarating Guigal tasting in Wellington,  which attracted keen winemakers from Hawkes Bay and Martinborough.  From the left:  2003 Hermitage Ex Voto,  young,  bit oaky,  18 +;  1983 Gigondas,  sublimely gentle,  fragrant and velvety,  18.5;  1998 Cote Rote Brune et Blonde,  definitive syrah florals,  18.5;  2003 Cote Rotie La Mouline,  soft and rich,  19 +;  2003 Cote Rotie La Turque,  gentle cassis;  19.5;  2003 Cote Rotie La Landonne,  benchmark cassis,  19.5 +.

Invitation – The Wines:
1983  Guigal Gigondas,  Southern Rhone Valley,  France
1998  Guigal Gigondas,  Southern Rhone Valley,  France
2010  Guigal Gigondas,  Southern Rhone Valley,  France
1983  Guigal Cote-Rotie Brune & Blonde,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France
1985  Guigal Cote-Rotie Brune & Blonde,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France
1998  Guigal Cote-Rotie Brune & Blonde,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France
2003  Guigal Cote-Rotie Brune & Blonde,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France
2010  Guigal Cote-Rotie Brune & Blonde,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France
2003  Guigal Cote-Rotie La Landonne,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France
2003  Guigal Cote-Rotie La Mouline,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France
2003  Guigal Cote-Rotie La Turque,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France
2003  Guigal Hermitage Ex Voto,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France

Our tasting offers three Guigal Gigondas spanning 27 years,  to show both the Guigal style with Southern Rhone blends,  and the fact they age exquisitely.  Then turning to the Northern Rhone,  there will be five examples of Cote-Rotie Brune & Blonde,  the wine that sets the standard for the appellation,  and amounts to c.30% of the entire appellation's production.  They also will span 27 years.  These eight wines are all from good to very good years.  Then there will be the four grands crus,  all 2003,  all four rated 100 points by Robert Parker,  a highly-rated Northern Rhone vintage:  Cote-Rotie La Mouline first made in 1966,  and the most burgundy-like of the three,  Cote-Rotie La Landonne (the all-syrah one) first made in 1978,  and Cote-Rotie La Turque,  first made in 1985.  In discussing the grands crus,  Parker,  2011 says:  The three single vineyard Cote-Roties are among the world's top fifty wines ever made. Their differences become apparent around age 8-10 and are dramatically different by age 15.  So ours at 14 years old should be good.  They will be joined by Hermitage Ex Voto,  all syrah,  first made in 2001.  These four wines are virtually never offered for tasting all together,  in New Zealand.

The reputation of the Guigals,  late grandfather Etienne,  father Marcel,  and son Philippe grows year on year.  Rather like J L Chave,  you get the impression this is because the same two or three sets of taste-buds have assessed every wine,  over the last 70 years.  Robert Parker first came to recognise the extraordinary skills of the Guigals,  and thus has a clearer view of their achievements than anybody.  In his pioneering Rhone book of 198... has emerged as the dominant producer of outstanding Rhone wines  ... both a negociant and a significant vineyard owner. It was founded only in 1946 [by Etienne]. Since the early seventies, his son, the bespectacled, bereted, birdlike Marcel, has taken charge. The result has been the transformation of very good wines to not only spectacular wines, but some of the finest in the world ...

Guigal's style of winemaking is unique not only in Cote-Rotie, but in all of the Rhone Valley. First, he is the Rhone's greatest exponent of the judicious use of new oak barrels for aging his wines ... his single-vineyard Cote-Roties sojourn 30 – 36 months in new oak [42 months now]. Second, because ... Guigal's red wines spend such a long time in both small oak and large oval foudres, his wines rarely have to be fined or filtered ... The results are wines that have ... impeccable balance and aging potential.

At the close of 2012,  Parker's view had not changed much:
... The three single vineyard Cote-Roties are consistently among the world's greatest wines. ... The Guigal family may be the modern world's greatest testament to a family-run winery with impeccably high standards, integrity and an uncompromising vision of the future. They continue to push the envelope of quality to greater and greater heights. Marcel Guigal learned it all from his father, Etienne, a legend in the Northern Rhone. Over my three decade plus career, it has been a noteworthy story to watch Marcel's son, Philippe, take full responsibility for the future direction of this incredible enterprise. I have almost unlimited admiration for the Guigals and their ability to produce millions of bottles of inexpensive Cotes du Rhones that are among the finest of the entire Rhone Valley, as well as their portfolio of exquisite whites, reds and roses from the most prestigious appellations in the Rhone. After more than three decades of tasting here, I never cease to be amazed by what they accomplish.

Pricing for the Tasting:  The Guigal grands crus are rare in the world,  and even rarer in New Zealand,  their production being less than a tenth of any of the Bordeaux First Growths (Petrus excepted).  They are allocated / rationed at release in New Zealand.  At one point they moved almost to parity in price with the Bordeaux First Growths.  They have not fallen,  but the latter have departed to a new level.   Please check the wine-searcher.com values for the four 2003 Guigal grands crus (a great vintage in the Northern Rhone Valley) this hard-to-match tasting offers.  You will find their value alone divided by the number of tasters is significantly greater than the fee asked to share our 12 bottles.

Introduction to Maison Guigal
Maison Guigal is based in the village of Ampuis,  the cradle of Cote-Rotie.  Grandfather Etienne started his winemaking career there with the then-famous winemaking firm Vidal-Fleury in 1924. Vidal-Fleury continued to be one of the leading producers in Cote-Rotie.  Etienne finally left to found his own winemaking company,  Maison Guigal,  in 1946.  He continued till 1961 when blindness struck.  Son Marcel took over and increasingly moved the firm towards the visionary path that characterises them today.  In 1973 his wife joined him,  and the house of Guigal became the complete family business.  Current chief winemaker and son Philippe was born in 1975.  Throughout the years the firm has increasingly been characterised by careful and perceptive acquisitions and expansion,  yet it remains totally family owned and controlled.

First there were key vineyard acquisitions in Cote-Rotie,  enabling the introduction of the single vineyard and monopole wine La Mouline in 1966,  then progressively the acquisition of small parcels of the famous La Landonne vineyard as opportunity offered,  leading to the second 'grand cru' wine La Landonne in 1978.  The purchase of the Vidal-Fleury establishment in 1985 augmented the La Landonne holdings,  and gave Guigal total control of the La Turque vineyard,   to become the third of the great Cote-Rotie wines which have made Guigal famous the world over.  
In 1995 the famous Chateau d'Ampuis in the heart of Ampuis village was acquired:  it now serves as the prestige headquarters for the firm,  and houses the Guigal cooperage.  It has a Cote-Rotie named after it,  assembled since 1995 from several well-regarded vineyards.  The Cote-Rotie Chateau d'Ampuis sits between the 'grand cru' wines and Guigal's Cote-Rotie Brune & Blonde.  However there is much more to the Guigal headquarters than this historic building,  their extensive underground cellars and buildings in Ampuis now spread over and under about three hectares.  

Robert Parker has long forecast that since Marcel Guigal holds that there are three pre-eminent wine regions in the Rhone Valley,  namely Cote-Rotie,  Hermitage,  and Chateauneuf-du-Pape,  that he would be seeking to acquire vineyards in the latter two places.  Part of this goal was achieved in 2001,  with  the purchase of Domaine Jean-Louis Grippat,  giving vineyards in Saint-Joseph and notably Hermitage.  The key holding here was the small vineyard plots allowing the creation of a 'grand cru' Hermitage,  Ex Voto,  the same year.  This wine is intended to complement and match the three 'grand cru' Cote-Roties,  even though it is assembled from several parcels of land in named Hermitage vineyards.  The same year Guigal acquired de Vallouit,  providing further holdings in Cote-Rotie,  Hermitage,  Saint-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage.  These acquisitions also allowed the introduction of the premium Saint-Joseph wines Saint-Joseph Vignes de l'Hospice and  Saint-Joseph Lieu dit,  but they do not enjoy quite the reputation of the now-four grands crus.  Interest now turns to when Maison Guigal will be able to acquire premium vineyards in Chateauneuf-du-Pape,  and the introduction of a prestige wine from that appellation.

The mastery of Guigal father and son however extends well beyond their own vineyard holdings.  To again quote Robert Parker,  1997:  
What is the key to Guigal's success? For Guigal's own vineyards,  which are cultivated organically with no chemical fertilisers or treatments, there is a notoriously late harvest aimed at picking grapes that are nearly bursting because of their supermaturity.  The late harvest, plus extremely low yields, minimal intervention in the wine cellar (minimal rackings and absolutely no filtration), all combine to produce spectacularly fragrant, rich, profound wines.  The same prerequisites are applicable to the juice that Guigal purchases to fashion his blends of Cotes du Rhone, Hermitage, Condrieu, and Chateauneuf du Pape. He buys only from producers who have old vines and low yields and who harvest late.

An indication of the scope of the Guigal enterprise can be extracted (in part) from their website,  plus Wine Spectator info.  Though the crop may vary by 50% or more depending on the season,  these are the approximate annual average production totals,  reds only (but not forgetting Guigal is the leading producer,  some 45%,  of all Condrieu).  The numbers for the premium wines show why they are rationed / allocated throughout the world.  Our year,  2003,  production was half normal,  so it astonishing that New Zealand secured any at all:

  Cotes du Rhone:
  Cote-Rotie Brune & Blonde:
  Saint-Joseph Lieu Dit:
  Saint-Joseph Vignes de l'Hospice:           
  Cote-Rotie Chateau d'Ampuis:
  Cote-Rotie La Mouline:
  Cote-Rotie La Landonne:
  Cote-Rotie La Turque:
  Hermitage Ex Voto:

  166,500 cases
  10,000 cases
  166,650 cases
  37,500 cases
  18,350 cases
  23,350 cases  (approx 30% of the entire appellation)     
  2,915 cases
  1,350 cases
  625 cases
  2,500 cases
  415 cases
  1,000 cases
  400 cases
  650 cases

Livingstone-Learmonth,  John,  2005:  The Wines of the Northern Rhone.  University of California Press,  704 p.
Parker,  Robert,  1987:  Wines of the Rhone Valley and Provence.  Simon & Schuster,  456 p.
Parker,  Robert,  1997:  Wines of the Rhone Valley.  Simon & Schuster,  685 p.
www.drinkrhone.com  =  John Livingstone-Learmonth  (subscription needed)  NB:  J. L-L uses SIX stars.
www.jancisrobinson.com = Jancis Robinson MW mainly for this tasting  (subscription needed)
www.robertparker.com = Robert Parker and Jeb Dunnuck for this tasting  (subscription needed)
www.winespectator.com = James Molesworth for this tasting  (subscription needed)


#  The first price given below is the current wine-searcher value,  which gives an indication of the broader market estimation of the wine now.  Occasionally,  where available,  the original purchase price is given in the text following.  Where specific wine info is not easily available,  I mostly give the recent cepage and elevation,  even though this may be misleading for earlier vintages.  

2010  Guigal Cote-Rotie Brune et Blonde
2003  Guigal Cote-Rotie Brune et Blonde
1998  Guigal Cote-Rotie Brune et Blonde
1985  Guigal Cote-Rotie Cotes Brune et Blonde
1983  Guigal Cote-Rotie Cotes Brune et Blonde
2003  Guigal Cote-Rotie La Landonne
  2003  Guigal Cote-Rotie La Mouline
2003  Guigal Cote-Rotie La Turque
2003  Guigal Ermitage Ex Voto
2010  Guigal Gigondas
1998  Guigal Gigondas
1983  Guigal Gigondas

2003  Guigal Cote-Rotie La Landonne   19 ½ +  ()
Cote Brune,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $937   [ Cork,  49 mm;  Sy 100%,  average vine age 35 years,  typically cropped at 35 hl/ha = 4.55 t/ha = 1.84 t/ac;  Parker rating for year 96;  NZ price at purchase $575;  minimum 28 days cuvaison,  not usually destemmed,  42 months in 100% new barrels,  all 228-litre;  Parker in characterising the three Cote-Rotie grands crus,  says of La Landonne:  extraordinary density and power, as well as a brooding backwardness that is extremely impressive;  J.L-L,  2011:  the robe is full; the nose is complete, deep, but there is subtlety in it; the prime fruit is dark plum, but it is varied with herb notes, surely testament to the hot year, its southern leaning, and there is a mineral angle as well. The palate is suave, tasty, wholesome – it is at a sweet moment now, even though it still lengthens on its oak raising. Its black fruit is extremely fine and continuous, its core is deep, deep. It still ends on its tannin which provides a crunchy late moment. It remains in thrall to its vintage and to its raising, is a very young wine. 2036-2039,  ******;  Robinson,  2006:  Very intense, deep and leathery. Savoury, very Syrah. Very deep and rich start with very dry savoury finish. Good combination: the severity of Landonne and the ripeness of '03. All three single vineyard wines very consistent styles through the two vintages. Keep this for ages,  19;  Parker,  2007: 100;  J Dunnuck @ Parker,  2014:  the most classic feel, with searing minerality, liquid smoke and bacon fat-like aromas being carried by massive amounts of inky dark fruits. Closer in style to the La Turque, with a powerful, structured profile, it nevertheless has off the charts texture, depth and purity, all of which allow it to thrill even now. It should be the longest lived of the four Cote-Roties,  100;  Wine Spectator,  2007:  Plush and smoky, with loads of flesh carrying black olive, fig, tobacco, currant and game notes. The broad, powerful finish shows a very roasted quality, with dark, smoky bacon and fig notes and an exotic hint of spice. This is a huge wine that only shows bits of what it will eventually offer. Best from 2010 through 2030. 500 cases made,  98;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  amazingly fresh,  the deepest colour of the 12 wines.  The bouquet is simply astonishing.  If cassis character represents the absolute peak of perfection for syrah in its ripening curve,  I have never smelt a syrah so vibrantly aromatic and cassisy.  The bouquet is mouthwatering,  with dusky rose florals as well.  It would contrast with a highly cassisy cabernet due to its faint undertone of sweet black pepper.  There is a suggestion of new oak in the aromatics,  but the bouquet is sensationally grape-dominant,  extraordinary.   Palate follows perfectly,  a glorious depth of cassis flavour,  fresh,  vibrant,  wonderful concentration which seems almost fat in mouth,  yet not at all heavy.  The flavour seems lengthened almost for ever on exquisite tannins and cedary oak.  There is scarcely any hint of the hot summer in this wine.  In one sense the wine is still youthful,  but there is just a little mellowing,  as it embarks on its plateau of maturity.  Five people rated this their top wine of the evening,  two their second.  Cellar 10 – 30 years.  Glorious wine,  it is hard to imagine how it could be better.  Just a trace more florality,  maybe.  GK 05/17

2003  Guigal Cote-Rotie La Turque   19 ½  ()
Cote Brune,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $1,000   [ Cork,  49 mm;  Sy 93%,  Vi 7,  co-fermented,  average vine age 25 years,  typically cropped at 35 hl/ha = 4.55 t/ha = 1.84 t/ac;  Parker rating for year 96;  NZ price at purchase $575;  c. 28 days cuvaison,  42 months in 100% new barrels,  all 228-litre;  Parker in characterising the three Cote-Rotie grands crus,  says of La Turque:  a synthesis in style between La Mouline and La Landonne … not as tannic or muscular as La Landonne … nearly the same compelling aromatics as La Mouline … the Rhone’s answer to Burgundy’s great duo of grand cru vineyards, Richebourg and Musigny;  J.L-L,  2011:  dark robe; there are wisps of mineral, prune, ground coffee in a very solid bouquet – it shows airs of baked, hot plains and stones which are offset by the relative breeze of the mineral elements that include toasting and mint. The palate bears a lot of savoury fruit – is an affair of real depth and tasty generosity. This has great length, a wonderful roundness with the charge of the hot vintage at the end. Its freshness is striking, with poise and elegance lining up well. 2034-2036,  *****;  Robinson,  2006:  Very interesting menthol note on this energetic, superripe, very opulent wine that is JUST this side of overripe but saved by acidity and freshness. Really dramatic and rich. So rich it tastes almost drinkable now. Tannins deeply submerged beneath a richly embroidered canopy of fruit. Obviously picked before end August, before grapes started to dry. Lots of glam oak,  19;  Parker,  2007: 100;  J Dunnuck @ Parker,  2016:  I’ve always loved the 2003s from the Guigal family and the 2003 Cote-Rotie la Turque has yet to ever disappoint. An incredible perfume of smoked herbs, charred meats, violets, licorice and blackcurrants gives way to a huge, unctuous, powerful Cote-Rotie that has masses of ripe, sweet tannin, full-bodied richness and a finish that just won’t quit. Enjoy this heavenly elixir over the coming 2-3 decades,  100;  Wine Spectator,  2007:  Incredibly dense and concentrated, with a polished layer of mocha-infused toast pushed by blackberry, black currant, black tea and dark olive flavors. This has tremendous power, but is also very suave, with sweet, exotic fruit notes that linger endlessly on the long, fleshy finish. Best from 2010 through 2030. 210 cases made,  98;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  nearly as fresh as La Landonne,  but not quite the depth,  the third deepest wine.  Bouquet here is nearly as glorious as the La Landonne,  the same fresh aromatic cassis but a little more dusky-rose floral,  and not quite the depth.  Once one knows the identity,  you try to see how to recognise the viognier component,  but it is near impossible.  Palate is a little softer than the La Landonne,  not showing the extraordinary depth of aromatic cassis that wine has,  but the level of fruit and richness is comparable.  Oak is detectable,  lengthening the flavour wonderfully,  but again not dominating.  This is beautiful wine too,  which could easily be marked as highly as La Landonne.  Cellar 10 – 25 years.  GK 05/17

2003  Guigal Cote-Rotie La Mouline   19 +  ()
Cote Blonde,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $892   [ Cork,  49 mm;  Sy 89%,  Vi 11,  co-fermented,  average vine age 75 years,  typically cropped at 37 hl/ha = 4.8 t/ha = 1.9 t/ac;  Parker rating for year 96;  NZ price at purchase $575;  c. 28 days cuvaison,  42 months in 100% new barrels,  all 228-litre;  Parker in characterising the three Cote-Rotie grands crus,  says of La Mouline:  It is one of the world’s most intensely perfumed wines … the most supple and seductive of Guigal’s single-vineyard treasures;  J.L-L,  2011:  the robe is still dark; sunny bouquet whose red fruit lies quietly, is latent more than obvious. There is a smoky top air, but the undertone is persistent. There are good waves of fruit and more arresting details such as airs of juniper and coffee. The palate is unusually big and savoury for Mouline, holds abundant gras richness, is sweet and fat throughout. The black fruit is smoky, peppery, very dense and continuous. A good and filled-up wine, and while it is dense, there is a a sweet depth and a succulent, coated finale that is not static,  2030-2033,  *****;  Robinson,  2006:  [ Note that Robinson has scored both the 1978 and the 1983 La Mouline 20 points,  a score she in effect never allocates ] Extremely intense and glamorous and appealing. Still young and unformed but opulent spice, great succulence, leathery notes – masses there but great balance. Not hot. And not raisined. Fresh. It’s the intensity that is the key characteristic. Good dry finish and it does taste like Cote-Rotie. Neat and lovely – tastes of purple fruits. Not a trace of heat on the finish – finishes quite dry actually,  18.5+;  Parker,  2007:  The 2003 Cote-Rotie La Mouline is by far the most delicate and elegant wine (11% Viognier is co-fermented with 89% Syrah) but the enormous aromatics of spring flowers intermixed with creme de cassis, black raspberry, mocha, caramel, and cola, and enormous full-bodied opulence and striking velvety, seamless texture make for one of the most memorable wines anyone could ever drink. This wine should age effortlessly for 25-30 or more years,  100;  Wine Spectator,  2007:  Racy and defined, with a torrent of pure red currant and raspberry ganache that pours out from the core, around which a mouthwatering mineral note swirls. Has a terrific spine, with iron and spice notes mingling with the endless stream of raspberry fruit. Purer than the La Landonne and the La Turque in 2003, without the vintage's extra roasted power. A really stunning display of fruit and precision. Drink now through 2030. 230 cases made,  99;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  clearly ‘older’ in appearance than La Landonne and La Turque,  and a little deeper than the latter,  the second deepest wine.  There is something of the chameleon in this wine,  each time you smell it,  it seems different.  Initially opened,  it shows just a hint hint of the baked character betraying a hotter vintage,  as in 2003 Brune & Blonde,  and the 1998 Gigondas.  With air however,  the bouquet expanded,  presenting a dusky floral dimension,  dark red roses and deepest violets maybe,  smelling very smooth.  As with La Turque,  but moreso with the very high level of viognier (11%) in this wine,  you search for descriptors.  It is totally different from La Landonne,  not the vibrant cassis,  yet there is a plushness of fruit on bouquet that becomes seductive.  You  end up wanting to think there are yellow flowers and stonefruit characters in the cassisy and plummy fruit,  but only because you know about the viognier.  Palate is certainly very different:  there is no doubt this wine is fatter and much fleshier,  the latter perhaps the key to detecting a viognier component.  It seeme a little more tannic as well.  Again there is just a suggestion of the year being too hot for grape-derived aromatics,  but it is still a wonderful mouthful of wine.  As Helen Masters (Ata Rangi) said,  you wish you could compare it with a cooler / more ‘perfect’ year,  in the way that the Brune & Blonde sequence illustrates.  La Mouline was the clear favourite on the night,  maybe because of the enhanced textural viscosity,  with six marking it the top wine of the night,  five their second.  Cellar 5 – 25 years.  GK 05/17

2010  Guigal Gigondas   18 ½ +  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  14%;  $41   [ Cork,  50 mm;  now Gr 65%,  Mv 25,  Sy 10,  cropped at 3.9 t/ha = 1.6 t/ac;  Parker rating for year 98;  elevation two years in large oak,  up to 50% new;  note J.L-L has quite a different rendering of these ‘facts’,  and he is such an assiduous researcher of the Northern Rhone I am inclined to believe him:  60% Grenache,  33% Mourvedre,  7% various others –  Syrah,  Cinsault,  large wood but little new,  wine bought from up to 40 suppliers;  J.L-L,  pre-2013: ... full red. Wide, promising nose that is well-filled, with dark red fruit, mulberry, tobacco, mocha – a bouquet of substance. The palate holds tightly packed dark red fruits with plenty of tannin close beside them. It is more complete and complex than the 2009 Gigondas, has a sense of fire in its veins, a real six-pack style torso. It has a fresh declension, with its southern strength well sustained. Good length, too. From 2015. 2032-2034,  ****(*);  J Dunnuck @ Parker, 2013:  A blend of 65% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre and 10% Syrah that spent 24 months in older foudres, the 2010 Gigondas is a classic effort that offers up quality spice, underbrush, loamy soil and mulled dark fruits to go with a medium-bodied, rich, supple profile on the palate. Beautifully done, with chewy tannin lending some focus and grip on the finish, it should have 12-15 years of longevity,  91;  Wine Spectator,  2014:  Ripe, with notes of mulling spices weaving around the core of steeped plum and macerated currant fruit. Hints of licorice snap, wood spice and black tea fill in on the fleshy finish. Drink now through 2017. 2,200 cases imported,  90;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  above midway in depth.  The three Gigondas were placed as wines six to eight in the sequence,  and sequenced simply in vintage order,  so tasters could concentrate on the difference in style of a grenache-led wine vs the syrahs,  and then see how they varied with the vintage,  and age.  The bouquet on number six,  this wine,  was therefore a dramatic contrast to the five syrahs Brune &  Blonde which preceded it.  It was more red fruits,  more cinnamon spicy,  suggestions of thyme and rosemary garrigue character adding a quite different aromatic quality,  compared with the cassis of the best syrahs,  just lovely.  Palate is in one sense rich and flavoursome,  furry-tannins of youth,  yet in another sense it is light and refreshing.  This is the great thing about good Gigondas:  it has not ‘put on weight’ with the clumsy alcohol too many modern Chateauneuf-du-Papes now display.  Yes,  the alcohol may be a little more than the given 14%,  but nowhere near the 15 + % increasingly the norm in Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  This wine is uncannily fresh,  the raspberry fruit still somewhat separate from the oak,  but you feel it will marry up wonderfully,  with its gorgeous freshness pointing to a lovely fragrant wine many years down the track.  Two people had this as their second favourite wine of the evening,  even up against the grands crus.  Cellar 10 – 25 years.  GK 05/17

1983  Guigal Gigondas   18 ½  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $ –    [ Cork,  49 mm;  now Gr 70%,  Sy 20,  Mv 10,  cropped at ± 4.2 t/ha = 1.7 t/ac;  Parker rating for year 87;  elevation two years in large oak,  up to 50% new;  note J.L-L has quite a different rendering of these ‘facts’,  and he is such an assiduous researcher of the Northern Rhone I am inclined to believe him:  60% Grenache,  33% Mourvedre,  7% various others –  Syrah,  Cinsault,  large wood but little new,  wine bought from up to 40 suppliers;  the extent to which ‘right-thinking’ wine drinkers are blinkered beyond belief is not only indicated,  but confirmed by wine-searcher.com having no Guigal Gigondas listed before the 1996 vintage.  Likewise even Parker has deleted earlier 80s reviews from his new (but not necessarily improved) website – shame;  Guigal records the cepage for this wine now as above,  but Parker’s earlier Rhone book notes that Mv and Sy were higher in 1983;  Parker,  1987:  Guigal feels that 1983 was a mediocre year for Gigondas, but he also admits that his Gigondas in this vintage is his best yet,  due to the larger amounts of Syrah and Mourvedre in the blend. This is a rich, full-bodied, powerful Gigondas with loads of peppery, cassis-scented fruit. Drink over the next 5 – 7 years,  87;  Wine Spectator, 1986:  Classic Rhone, with beautiful black pepper and spice character framing plum, cherry and anise flavors, ripe, intense and elegant at the same time. A real mouthful,  91;  www.guigal.com ]
Garnet and ruby,  the third lightest wine.  1983 was a magic year for Guigal,  and right from first opening this wine shows all the gentle complexity of great Chateauneuf-du-Pape at full maturity,  wonderfully fragrant on its red fruits browning now,  beautiful cinnamon and a hint of manool / silver-pine spicey character,  and obvious garrigue complexity.  The oak is nearly invisible and importantly,  the alcohol is down where it used to be,  when Chateauneuf-du-Pape was more subtle and beautiful than it is now.  Palate is simply velvet,  light in one sense,  and ethereal,  yet still heaps of fruit in a light yet mouth-filling way.  There is trace brett,  absolutely at the positive complexity level.  One person rated it the most enjoyable wine of the entire set,  and another second,  a pleasing result.  Fully mature,  but no hurry at all – the wine was better still the next day.  This wine is now sensational with food,  being so soft,  aromatic and complex.  GK 05/17

2010  Guigal Cote-Rotie Brune et Blonde   18 ½  ()
Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  14%;  $79   [ Cork,  49 mm;  now Sy 96%,  Vi 4,  average age 35 years from Guigal vineyards plus 40 growers,  typically cropped at 4.8 t/ha = 1.9 t/ac;  Parker rating for year 97;  c. 21 days cuvaison,  elevation three years in barrel,  mostly small-wood from the 2004 vintage on,  40 – 50% new;  J.L-L,  2015:  dark red, slight lightness at the top of the robe. The bouquet is a meaty, crunchy red fruited affair, still very close-knit, has a light peppering as well. The palate has an interior vigour; on the outside it coasts along via clear red cherry fruit. Its depth lies below, like an iceberg. The longer you leave this, the more varied and compelling it will become: that is a formal announcement. The content has a savoury angle, lamb stock. The aftertaste is lip smacking, shows rosemary and dried herbs. The exit is lightly salted. Decant this, and wait until 2018. 13.5°. 2033-2036,  ****(*);  R Hemming @ Robinson,  2014:  Violets and peppered meat; the authenticity can’t be faulted. Classic, savoury, lovely manicured tannins. Impressive aromatic range and lovely depth of flavour,  17;  J Dunnuck @ Parker,  2014:  A wine I reviewed earlier this year, the 2010 Cote-Rotie Brune et Blonde is a stunning Cote-Rotie. Made from 96% Syrah and 4% Viognier and aged in equal parts new and once used barrels, it’s medium to full-bodied, elegant and seamless, with rocking notes of raspberries, peppered bacon, coffee bean and violets. Drink it anytime over the coming decade or more,  93;  Wine Spectator,  2014:  Shows energy and range, with mouthwatering, briary tannins carrying the core of blackberry and plum paste notes. Fruitcake, pastis and alder details fill in the background. The sneakily long finish presents heft and cut. Best from 2015 through 2025. 500 cases imported,  94;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  absolutely in the middle for depth of colour.  In presenting this tasting,  with five vintages of Brune & Blonde spanning 2010 to 1983,  it seemed more important for tasters to focus on the way syrah ages,  and the way its character varies with the warmth of summer,  rather than trying to work out blind which wines were syrah dominant,  and which were grenache.  Accordingly the five Brune & Blonde wines were presented first,  from 2010 back to 1983,  in simple vintage sequence.  This format also allowed tasters to focus on the differences in the three grenache-led wines,  wines 6 to 8,  which followed.  Bouquet on this 2010 syrah epitomises the pinot noir-like beauty that syrah can show when not over-ripe.  It is not a big wine,  but it illustrates pinpoint varietal character,  near-carnations / dianthus florals,  a hint of black rather than white pepper,  red and black fruits including blackcurrant / cassis and some plum,  beautifully fragrant,  subtle oak.  Palate follows perfectly,  showing the freshness of the 2010 year,  not quite as fat and ripe as the 2009s.  This is more the weight of wine the Redman Shiraz used to be at Coonawarra in the 1970s,  before  Australians became obsessed with oak and size (sadly).  Since Guigal’s Brune & Blonde is the benchmark Cote Rotie,  against which all other Cote Roties are measured,  this is an important wine.  It shows dramatically just how good Te Mata Syrah Bullnose is nowadays,  in its Cote Rotie styling.  Cellar 10 – 30  years.  GK 05/17

1998  Guigal Cote-Rotie Brune et Blonde   18 ½  ()
Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $104   [ Cork,  49 mm;  now Sy 96%,  Vi 4,  average age 35 years,  typically cropped at 4.8 t/ha = 1.9 t/ac;  Parker rating for year 90;  c. 21 days cuvaison,  elevation three years in barrel,  50% new;  J.L-L,  pre-2005:  overt, spiced bouquet, smoky dark jam; well-packed flavour, sustained red fruits, quite solid. Good weight. Back to the 1980s levels. Chewy finale. From 2005-06. 2013-2015,  ****;  Robinson,  2005:  Deep and quite healthy ruby. Round and seductive with lots of ripe fruit – quite different from most other regular Cote Roties. Some tarriness but still the delicacy of the appellation. I’m impressed by this! A complete wine that seems obviously from a successful vintage. Really fruity core without any sacrifice of typicity,  17.5;  Parker,  2002:  Guigal's Cote-Rotie Brune et Blonde (25,000 cases produced), tends to have 4-5% Viognier included in the blend. The 1998 exhibits some of the vintage's hard tannin, as well as complex aromatics of roasted olives, black currants, creamy oak, sweet cherries, and dried herbs. Medium to full-bodied and structured, with a sweet attack, it will benefit from another two years of cellaring, and last for 15 years,  90;  Wine Spectator,  2001:  #10 in the Top 100 for 2001:  Caresses the palate. Elegant, with mineral, red and black fruit and supple tannins. Seductive balance on the fresh finish, where the firm tannins make a surprise appearance that suggests a bit of cellar time is needed to bring out the best of this red. Best from 2003 through 2010. 31,665 cases made.  93;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby with a little garnet creeping in.  Bouquet is clearly floral,  fragrant,  fresh,  wonderful,  no hint of the 1998 heat some Rhone wines show.  In the introduction I had described the key character of perfectly ripe syrah as carnations / dianthus / pinks / sweet william florality married to cassis-led fruit.  I could not have asked for a better example than this wine,  which shows to perfection the essence of syrah varietal florality.  The cassis character is browning a little now.  Total bouquet is wonderfully fragrant,  berry dominant,  oak subsidiary.  Palate shows a little more maturity than the bouquet suggests,  flavour perfectly summing up the bouquet,  extended on fragrant cedary oak which is beautifully in the background.  At 19 years of age this wine is at a peak of perfection.  It will cellar another 10 years or so.  It shows why Guigal’s Brune & Blonde is the reference wine for the Cote Rotie appellation.  If a wine is better than Brune & Blonde in any given year,  the winemaker has a winner.  Tasters did not react as warmly to this wine as I did,  it not being a favourite for anybody.  This may be because I mark up florality,  especially of this quality.  GK 05/17

2003  Guigal Ermitage Ex Voto   18 +  ()
Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $871   [ Cork,  49 mm;  Sy 100%,  average vine age 35 years,  typically cropped at 35 hl/ha = 4.55 t/ha = 1.85 t/ac,  but the crop reduced in 2003;  Parker rating for year 96;  NZ price at purchase $575;  up to 28 days cuvaison,  42 months in 100% new barrels,  all 228-litre (though J.L-L says 30 – 36,  unexplained);  contributing vineyards Les Bessards 30%,  Greffieux 30%,  Murands 20%,  Hermite 20%,  total holding 2.2 ha,  first year 2001;  the name Ex Voto usually means a promise made to the gods,  so in the Guigal case this may refer to their long-standing desire to secure land on the Hill of Hermitage;  J.L-L,  2006:  dark to very dark robe. Has a peppery, rich-toned nose that carries very ripe fruit; there is a blend of violet and very ripe blackcurrant. The palate holds pebbly, intense fruit with a peppery plunge in it. A big, dark, earthy wine with licorice in the flavour and evident tannins. From 2010. 2028-2032,  ****(*);  Parker,  2007: The good news continues as the 2003 Hermitage Ex-Voto may even be the richest of all these wines. Only 4,000 bottles [ 333 cases ] were produced. It is the most alcoholic of all the wines at 15%, but its off-the-chart richness, full-bodied, powerful, and amazing creme de cassis flavors along with truffle, crushed rocks, and acacia flowers, are utterly profound. This is one of the great Hermitages and it should last for 50-100 years. Just amazing. 100;  Wine Spectator,  2007:  Exotic, with a gorgeous, mocha-infused fig aroma and rich, flashy flavors of spice, blackberry confiture and licorice. Additional notes of spice cake, incense and loam fill out the finish. This is loaded with structure, but the tannins are silky. A beauty. Drink now through 2027,  97;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  clearly not as fresh as 2003 La Landonne,  though both are straight syrah.  With wines at this price level ($575 at purchase) one is looking for perfection.  Thus to first sniff,  a slight unease,  is there a hint of baked character,  and there do not seem to be the florals.  A cassis berry character is apparent,  but when you compare it with the La Landonne,  it is browning a little,  lacking the dramatic fresh blackcurrant aromatics.  And the oak is much more obvious,  almost to a fault.  Guigal say this wine receives the same 42 months in 100% new oak as the other three grand  crus,  but I simply don't believe them.  Perhaps it sees two lots of new barrels,  to make it more ‘manly’ – as Saintsbury would have said.  Flavours and textures are every bit as rich as La Landonne,  with cassis more prominent now,  all just a bit browner.  Unlike La Landonne,  it finishes on oak,  not berry.  It is still however much more subtle in this respect than Penfolds Grange,  recently reported on.  A hard wine to score:  it may look much more harmonious in 10 years.  Cellar 10 – 30 years.  Three people rated this their top wine in the set,  two their second.  GK 05/17

1983  Guigal Cote-Rotie Cotes Brune et Blonde   18  ()
Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $150   [ Cork,  49 mm;  now Sy 96%,  Vi 4,  average age 35 years,  typically cropped at 4.8 t/ha = 1.9 t/ac;  Parker rating for year 89;  c. 21 days cuvaison,  elevation three years in barrel,  50% new;  Robinson,  2016:  Mid ruby. Relatively fragile nose. Lots of strawberry fruit with an overlay of umami. Gentle and sweet. This has lasted amazingly well. A bit too sweet on the finish to be refreshing. But it has certainly lasted,  17;  Parker,  1997:  I preferred this wine during its first 10 years of life, as it has now lost some of its fat and succulence. Still a healthy dark ruby color, with only minor amber at the edge, the nose offers a spicy, earthy, sweet red-fruit character. It possesses the dry tannin that is found in so many wines of this vintage, but some fruit remains, as well as medium to full body, and a spicy, austere finish. Anticipated maturity: now-2004. Last tasted 12/93,  87;  Wine Spectator,  1995:  Ripe, thick and tannic. Vanilla and floral aromas are still young, and the plum and sweet licorice flavors promise long development. Drinkable now, but better in 1998,  90;  www.guigal.com ]
Garnet and ruby,  the second lightest wine,  but clearly redder than the 1985.  This wine benefits from a splashy decanting,  to reveal a fragrant bouquet which is still nearly floral like the 1998,  but there is just a hint of tannin creeping in too,  betraying its age.  You can see it was cassisy,  but the berry is browning now.  Palate is markedly fresher and better than the bouquet,  the berry clearly related to the 1998,  just appropriately older.  As is his wont,  Gordon Russell (Esk Valley) made the most perceptive comment on this wine:  yes it is old,  but it's not drying,  it still has fruit.  You can't help feeling sad that so few people see these wines in full maturity.  This example is at the far edge of its plateau of maturity.  One person had it as their second favourite,  in the entire set.  GK 05/17

1985  Guigal Cote-Rotie Cotes Brune et Blonde   17 ½  ()
Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $172   [ Cork,  49 mm;  now Sy 96%,  Vi 4,  average age 35 years,  typically cropped at 4.8 t/ha = 1.9 t/ac;  Parker rating for year 88;  c. 21 days cuvaison,  elevation three years in barrel,  50% new;  Parker,  1997:  Like many Northern Rhones from this vintage, the 1985 regular cuvee has always been a deliciously ripe, round, precocious-tasting wine, with a concentrated, creamy texture, and smoky bouquet. The amber edge and round, sweet fruit suggest full maturity. Drink it up. Mature now. Last tasted 7/96,  90;  Wine Spectator,  2008:  Mature but ripe, offering plum, dried currant and coffee aromas followed by a supple, medium-weight palate that shows black tea, shaved vanilla, dried fruit and date hints. The finish is still juicy, and the core is dark and still plump. Guigal non-blind vertical. Drink now,  90;  www.guigal.com ]
Garnet more than ruby,  the lightest wine.  Bouquet in this wine is as fragrant as the 1983,  but slightly different,  just a hint more phenolic,  less berryfruit,  as if older.  Again there is clear browning cassis,  and subtle oak.  Palate is intriguing,  clearly more tannic than the 1983,  still tannins to lose as Harry Waugh used to say.  This correlates with the slight phenolics on bouquet.  Hard to say if this wine will age as gracefully as  the 1983,  but I have a doubt.  Curious,  when 1983 is by reputation the hotter year.  Relative to the 1983,  tasters liked this more than I did,  perhaps because it was fractionally richer than the 1983.  One rated it their top wine of the evening,  and five their second.  This clearly has some time ahead of it,  hopefully to lose some tannin,  cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 05/17

1998  Guigal Gigondas   17 +  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $ –    [ Cork,  49mm;  now Gr 70%,  Sy 20,  Mv 10,  cropped at ± 4.2 t/ha = 1.7 t/ac;  Parker rating for year 98;  NZ price at purchase $61;  elevation two years in large oak,  up to 50% new;  note J.L-L has quite a different rendering of these ‘facts’,  and he is such an assiduous researcher of the Northern Rhone I am inclined to believe him:  60% Grenache,  33% Mourvedre,  7% various others – Syrah,  Cinsault,  large wood but little new,  wine bought from up to 40 suppliers;  Parker,  2001:  The dark ruby-colored 1998 Gigondas offers a sweet perfume of mineral-laced black cherries backed up by pepper. Medium-bodied, elegant, and savory, it is ideal for drinking over the next 7-8 years,  89;  Wine Spectator,  2002:  Supple and pleasant, a medium-bodied red that has some generous coffee, plum and blackberry flavors. Drink now through 2005. 13,330 cases made,  86;  www.guigal.com ]
Garnet more than ruby,  clearly browner than the 1983 Gigondas.  And one sniff of the bouquet shows why:  this wine does reveal the heat of some 2003s and 1998s,  the bouquet just a little baked (as in overcooked plum jam tart),  with the key descriptors mentioned being prune and soy sauce – so apt.  Palate is fresher than the bouquet,  a fat wine showing rich fruit in which browning raspberry,  plum and cinnamon show.  One taster wondered if there might be trace oxidation,  raising the possibility another bottle might be quite different.  Even so,  the palate richness means this will still be a satisfying wine with (for example) a roast beef dinner.  One person rated it their favourite wine of the evening,  one their second.  The wine still has quite a tannin grip,  and is rich,  so it can be cellared another 5 – 15 years.  It was much better the next day.  Eight tasters rated this their least wine of the evening.  GK 05/17

2003  Guigal Cote-Rotie Brune et Blonde   17  ()
Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $123   [ Cork,  50 mm;  now Sy 96%,  Vi 4,  average age 35 years,  typically cropped at 4.8 t/ha = 1.9 t/ac,  but crop reduced to 40% normal in 2003;  Parker rating for year 96;  c. 21 days cuvaison,  percentage new oak increased from 2004 vintage,  now elevation three years in barrel,  40 – 50% new;  J.L-L,  2006:  ripe, mature fruit, a little black jam in a bright bouquet. Leathery, filled attack, gains richness later on the palate, its fruit comes in a soft register, but overall the wine is solid and sustained. A late floral show. This can live. Esp 2009 on. 2022-2025,  ****;  Robinson,  2008:  Very dark. Heady and concentrated. Really rich - almost gamey. Nothing whatsoever to do with the elegant side of Cote-Rotie but then it's 2003 … Lots of bang for the not inconsiderable buck. I think I would choose something more typically Cote Rotie myself, but this is Guigal's full-on style accentuated by the heat-wave vintage,  17;  J Dunnuck @ Parker, 2014:  Much more ripe, textured and decadent, the 2003 Cote-Rotie Brune et Blonde is loaded with notions of cassis, plum sauce, licorice and exotic, gamy qualities that flow nicely to a full-bodied, concentrated wine that has sweet tannin, excellent mid-palate depth and a terrific finish. Drinking at maturity, it should nevertheless continue to evolve gracefully through 2023,  92;  Wine Spectator,  2007:  Still tight, but this has a solid core of muscular fig paste, currant, tobacco, black olive and iron notes, followed by a long, well-structured finish. Shows the heat of the vintage, but isn't roasted. Best from 2008 through 2015. 12,000 cases made,  92;   www.guigal.com ]
Ruby and some garnet,  in the middle for depth.  This was the other wine to clearly reveal that 2003 was a hot year,  requiring care with the point of picking,  if freshness were to be maintained.  The contrast with 2003 La Landonne could not be more vital,  this wine like the 1998 Gigondas showing baked plum tart qualities,  with suggestions of prunes and soy sauce again.  Like all these wines though,  it is wonderfully pure.  The  over-ripeness flows through to the palate,  more obviously than in the 1998 Gigondas.  But within the browning there is good richness,  subtle oak,  and great length.  Again,  this would be good with a roast dinner.  It shared least place with the 1998 Gigondas,  eight tasters ranking this their least-favoured wine of the evening.  The standard of the wines was so high,  however,  that to be least in this company was not too much of a let-down.  Cellar 5 – 20 years,  in its style.  GK 05/17