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


In recent years,  the annual Guigal new vintage release has become my highlight of the wine-tasting year.  This year's was based on the 2001 'grand cru' reds.  However,  my initial reaction was one of slight disappointment.  Perhaps because of the cooler season,  and the consequent higher acidity,  the top reds gave the impression of having been left hanging on the vine to achieve greater ripeness.  The nett result is a relative lack of the magical floral and fragrant components which make great Northern Rhone syrahs so distinctive in the world,  and instead a rounder,  darker,  plummy character,  moving a little towards Australian wine styles.  A couple were even a little clunky on new oak,  made more obvious by detectable VA.  As always, however,  all of these wines would be delightful at table sooner or later - for  Guigal wines rarely lack for drinkability.


Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
Pinot Gris
Sweet / Sticky
All other white wines, blends, etc.
2003  Guigal Condrieu
2003  Guigal Tavel
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
Cabernet / Shiraz
 Pinot Noir
Syrah = Shiraz
2001  Guigal Cote-Rotie Brune & Blonde
2001  Guigal Cote-Rotie Chateau d’Ampuis
2001  Guigal Cote Rotie La Landonne
2001  Guigal Cote Rotie La Mouline
2001  Guigal Cote Rotie La Turque
2001  Guigal Crozes-Hermitage
2001  Guigal Hermitage
2001  Guigal Hermitage Ermitage Ex Voto
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
2001  Guigal Chateauneuf-du-Pape
2001  Guigal Cotes-du-Rhone
2000  Guigal Gigondas
All other red wines, blends etc
From the Cellar. Older wines.

2001  Guigal Cote Rotie La Landonne   19  ()
Cote Rotie,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $353   [ actual vineyard;  Sy 100%;  average vine age 25 years;  cropped 35 - 37 hL / ha;  fermented in s/s,  4 weeks cuvaison;  42 months in new French oak;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the second deepest of these Guigal 2001 releases.  Bouquet needs a breath of air / swirling,  to become the most complex of the ‘grands crus’,  with suggestions of dianthus florals,  dark cassis and rich fruit,  spicy oak,  and herbes de Provence,  with an enticing savoury complexity.  The spicy nearly nutmeggy oak brings the Bannockburn Shiraz from Geelong to mind.  Palate is very rich,  again the most complex of the top wines,  great berryfruit but inclining to suggestions of over-ripeness like the other two,  suggestions of pepper and spice,  very dry,  firm acid,  all relieved by the sustained volume and complexity of bouquet in mouth.  The utmost critic would notice there is a little brett in the complexity,  but don't be put off by that.  Tasting the concentration of this wine alongside the village Brune et Blonde makes one realise how relatively mild and commercial that very pleasant wine has become,  with the flowering of the premium wines.  Cellar 10 - 20 years.  GK 07/05

2001  Guigal Cote Rotie La Mouline    18 ½ +  ()
Cote Rotie,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $353   [ Sy 89%,  Vi 11;  average vine age 75 years;  cropped 35 - 37 hL / ha;  fermented in s/s,  4 weeks cuvaison;  42 months in new French oak;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the third deepest in colour.  This is the purest of the three top Cote Roties,  showing a very ripe berry and fruit bouquet almost beyond the floral complexity which should be the hallmark of great syrah.  Instead, the ripeness has regrettably been taken through to almost Australian levels of blueberry and plum rather than cassis.  Palate is very concentrated around plummy fruit,  crisper and more fine-grained than most Australians,  with hints of spice,  attractive new oak,  and without the savoury complexity of the Landonne.  Acid balance is a little softer and rounder than the Landonne,  too.  Stylistically,  the best of Gimblett Gravels syrah is speaking much the same language as this wine,  inasmuch as some of them shows signs of sur-maturité too.  Cellar 10 - 20 years.  GK 07/05

2003  Guigal Condrieu   18 ½  ()
Condrieu,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $89   [ Vi 100%;  average vine age 25  years;  cropped 35 hL / ha;  33% fermented in new French oak,  67% in s/s,  all through MLF;  nearly 12 000 cases;  www.guigal.com ]
Glowing rich lemon.  Bouquet is textbook viognier,  just perfect,  canned apricots and florals reminiscent of frangipani and tropical evenings,  heavenly.  Palate is intriguing, taking the fruit and adding some phenolics,  like sucking on the stone of the apricot,  to give great length of flavour without heaviness.  Some tasters thought the wine could be richer,  but it is then hard to retain the freshness - as we see in the Yalumba wines (leaving aside the hotter climate).  Drink in the next year or so.  GK 07/05

2001  Guigal Cote-Rotie Chateau d’Ampuis   18 ½  ()
Cote Rotie,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $245   [ Sy 93%,  Vi 7;  a blend of 6 vineyards;  30 months in small and large French oak;  no info on website;  www.guigal.com ]
Good ruby,  a little carmine and velvet,  lighter than the top three Cote-Roties.  In some ways this is the most representative of the Cote-Rotie bouquets,  showing some of the florals required to lift syrah from the robust to the beautiful,  plus attractive red berries including faint cassis,  and more cherries and plums.  New oak is detectable,  but subdued relative to the top wines.  Palate is beautifully fresh,  classic syrah,  not as rich as the ‘grands crus’,  a little acid,  but potentially elegant and lovely.  Cellar 5 - 15 years.  GK 07/05

2000  Guigal Gigondas   18 ½  ()
Gigondas,  Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $55   [ Gr 50%,  Sy 25,  Mv 25;  average vine age 40  years;  cropped 34 hL / ha;  traditional cuvaison;  24 months in French oak,  50% new;  c. 17 000 cases;  www.guigal.com ]
Older ruby.  Bouquet on this wine is beautiful,  essence of the southern Rhone,  some dianthus florals and herbes de Provence,  fragrant berryfruit far more complex than any simple berry,  gentle oak,  slightly spicy and savoury,  enchanting and very winey.  Palate is soft and rich,  great fruit based on grenache with its hints of raspberry complexed with cassis and other red berries,  all spiced with cinnamon,  lovely length,  unusually pleasurable drinking.  This is succulent alongside the Chateauneuf du Pape,  and brings back direct memories of the same wine in the mid-80s.  Lovely.  Cellar 5 - 15 years.  GK 07/05

2003  Guigal Tavel   18 ½  ()
Tavel,  Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $32   [ Gr 50%,  Ci 30,  clairette 10,  Sy 5,  others 5;  average vine age 25  years;  cropped 34 hL / ha;  free-run juice,  in s/s 6 months;  3300 cases;  www.guigal.com ]
Light salmon-flushed rosé.  Bouquet is fresh and fragrant,  suggesting strawberry jam (in the best sense) and raspberry,  with a lovely drying spicy cinnamon note adding complexity and vinosity,  classic grenache-dominated rosé.  Palate is flavoursome,  rich yet not heavy,  very dry yet seemingly sweet-fruited,  long in flavour.  Perfect rosé,  for all practical purposes.  'They' always say drink the youngest available,  but wines like this cellar beautifully short term,  just passing from spring to autumn berry flavours.  Cellar 3 - 8 years,  if desired.  GK 07/05

2001  Guigal Cote Rotie La Turque   18  ()
Cote Rotie,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $353   [ Sy 93%,  Vi 7;  average vine age 15 years;  cropped 35 - 37 hL / ha;  fermented in s/s,  4 weeks cuvaison;  42 months in new French oak;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  This is the most clearly overripe and Australian in style of the top Cote-Roties,  the bouquet just a little porty,  with oak and VA not as subtle as one might wish.  Plenty of berryfruit richness,  though.  Palate continues in the same style,  very flavoursome cassis and black plum,  aromatic on oak,  tauter than Australia,  but coarser and more obvious than the magic of the best years of these wines.  With time in cellar this will marry up into a big and impressive wine.  Cellar 10 - 20 years.  GK 07/05

2001  Guigal Hermitage Ermitage Ex Voto   18  ()
Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $300   [ Sy 100% from 4 famous hillside vineyards;  vine age 40 - 90 years;  42 months in new French oak;  production info not on website;  Tanzer notes from a visit to the winery that alcohol is 14%,  as opposed to the doctrinaire 13% across all but one of these northern Rhone labels;  Ex Voto would appear to convey the thought:  a thanksgiving for securing vineyards on the hill of Hermitage;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the deepest of all the ‘01 Guigals.  I was hoping for great things from this new ‘grand cru’ label from Hermitage,  having been bewitched by the top Cote Roties over the last few years.  But first reaction to sniffing the glass was disappointment - it is as if Guigal (of all people) wanted to compete with Australia, instead of being justifiably aloof from them.  The wine shows both VA and new oak in unsubtle amounts.  There is good fruit below,  but this youthful unknit bouquet is too rough to reveal much of it.  All comes to life on the palate,  where there is marvellous cassis and dark berry,  and very rich flavours.  The high acid of the year exacerbates the excess new oak,  though,  so it is a rough ride through the exciting flavours and excellent richness.  Only the fruit richness prompts me to mark up to 18,  now.  However,  this should be an exciting bottle in 10 years time when it has mellowed,  and will cellar for 20 +.  As the two village wines make a complementary pair,  likewise Ex Voto teams up well with la Turque,  sharing much in style and approach,  yet illustrating the character of the appellations too.  GK 07/05

2001  Guigal Chateauneuf-du-Pape   18  ()
Chateauneuf-du-Pape,  Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $92   [ Gr 80%,  Sy 10,  Mv 5,  others 5;  average vine age 45 years;  cropped 33 hL / ha;  3 weeks cuvaison;  24 months in French oak;  c. 12 500 cases;  www.guigal.com ]
Lighter and older ruby.  An intriguing bouquet sharing with wines such as Charvin ’03 Cotes-du-Rhone the cinnamon-infused warmth of ripe grenache,  further spiced with the aromatics of dried balsam (the fir) leaves.  Nett impression is of a perfumed wine with the aroma of New Zealand pink pine timber.  Palate is very ripe,  very dry,  and aromatic on the herbes and faint brett,  the 10% syrah and 10% others adding much complexity.  This is classic Chateauneuf in the traditional high-grenache style,  but it is not quite as beguiling as the Gigondas.  Cellar 5 - 15 years.  GK 07/05

2001  Guigal Hermitage   17 ½ +  ()
Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $138   [ Sy 100%;  average vine age 40  years;  cropped 40 hL / ha;  3 weeks cuvaison;  24 months in French oak;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby.  An interesting and clearly cassis and varietal bouquet,  not quite pure and fragrant,  but not pongy like the Crozes-Hermitage.  With a little air,  there are suggestions of violets and deep florals,  on darker cassis and black plums.  Palate is more robustly syrah and cassis than the d’Ampuis,  quite rich,  most of the oak older,  a bit of savoury (brett) complexity.  This wine reminds of where la Chapelle  used to be in the 80s,  though it is not as rich as the best ones.  It will cellar 10 - 15 years.  Stylewise,  it shows the sterner Hermitage approach well,  alongside the softer village Cote Rotie.  GK 07/05

2001  Guigal Cote-Rotie Brune & Blonde   17 ½ +  ()
Cote Rotie,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $113   [ Sy 96%,  Vi 4;  average vine age 35 years;  cropped 38 hL / ha;  3.5 weeks cuvaison;  24 months in French oak;  21 000 cases of 12 (by far the largest supplier of Cote Rotie to the world);  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby,  more the weight of grand cru burgundy.  This is pleasing mainstream wine epitomising syrah aiming to be attractive,  rather than impressive.  It is clean,  fragrant,  ripe,  highly typical of Cote-Rotie,  but lacking excitement.  There are suggestions of dianthus florals,  on ripe red plums,  cherry and berry.  Palate is round and supple,  relatively light,  scarcely any new oak,  slightly acid,  but mellow alongside the St Cosme ’01.  It will cellar for 5 - 12 years,  and be lovely drinking throughout.  GK 07/05

2001  Guigal Cotes-du-Rhone   16 ½  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $25   [ Sy 50%,  Gr 30,  Mv 15,  other 5;  average vine age 35  years;  cropped 41 hL / ha;  traditional cuvaison;  18 months in large old French oak;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby,  darker than the Cote Rotie,  much the same as the Crozes.  Close to 230 000 cases of this always-dependable wine are now made,  yet it retains its soft red fruits and impeccable fragrance and savoury finesse.  This year’s does however seem lighter than some vintages.  In the 80s,  this was a serious grenache-dominant southern Rhone red with syrah and mourvedre,  often very cellarworthy.  The 1985 for example is perfect today.  This latest wine is more a stylish and reasonably mouthfilling southern Rhone QDR,  which will cellar 3 - 5 years.  GK 07/05

2001  Guigal Crozes-Hermitage   16  ()
Crozes-Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  12.5%;  $37   [ Sy 100%;  average vine age 35  years;  cropped 40 hL / ha;  3 weeks cuvaison;  18 months in older French oak;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby,  deeper than the village Cote-Rotie.  Freshly poured the wine is pongy,  on a straightforward stalky Crozes rendering of syrah,  exactly illustrating the typically less-than-ideal syrah ripeness of the appellation.  This wine lacks the Hermitage-like excitement the top wines of the village can achieve.  With a good splashy decanting it opens up to reveal stalky cassis with red currants and red plums,  in older oak,  all slightly acid.  Anyone who has criticised the 2003 Te Mata Woodthorpe Syrah / Viognier for being acid should compare it with this wine.  The physiological maturity of the Woodthorpe is greatly superior,  despite the acid.  Mainstream modest Crozes which will cellar 3 - 8 years,  thinning with longer keeping.  GK 07/05