It is always a bit nerve-wracking to meet a winemaker whose wines you adore. Like a favorite musician, writer, or painter; when you connect with a wine, you fancy that you know a bit about the person who produced the art. Will the winemaker's personality match their wine? Will you like them as much as their creation? In the case of Phillipe Guigal, third-generation winemaker for the celebrated E. Guigal winery, the answer is absolutely yes!
After enjoying his wines for several years, I met Philippe for the first time last year and was impressed not only by his beautiful wines, but also his elegant and welcoming demeanor. Phillipe's perfect posture and poise are the result of years of dance training; he won major competitions in his youth and continues to dance and compete in ballroom dancing with his wife Eve. Confident but not boastful, Philippe is rightfully proud of his family's extraordinary contributions to winemaking in France. His grandfather, Etienne, founded E. Guigal in 1946 and for three generations the Guigal family has been working with land that is more than 24 centuries old in the Rhône Valley in southern France. Guigal owns 150 acres of vineyards in the Northern Rhône and some of their vines dates back to the 1890's. No pesticides, herbicides, or chemicals are used in their vineyards.
Philippe is adamant that his wines are authentic expressions of these treasured vineyards. Guigal's wines are not over-manipulated to appeal to trends but are meant to be accurate reflections of the grapes, terroir, and vintage. As an intuitive and well-trained winemaker, Philippe knows how to coax the grapes to their best expression without overwhelming their true essence with aggressive techniques. Guigal creates their affordably-priced wines with the same attention to care and detail that they use for their high-end wines that you'll find in Michelin-starred restaurants and collectors' cellars around the world.
Well, a year certainly goes by quickly and I recently had the pleasure of meeting with Philippe again to taste Guigal's latest vintages.
E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2016 ($15)
Guigal has a love affair with Viognier and that affection is evident in this fresh and rich white wine blend. Luscious but zippy and zesty with charming flavors of honeysuckle, pear, kiwi, and crispy, crunchy minerality; Viognier forms 60% of the blend and melds elegantly with Roussanne, Marsanne, Clairette, Bourboulenc, and Grenache Blanc.
E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2017 ($15)
There's rosé and there's really good rosé! Guigal's rosé is consistently balanced, flavorful, and fresh. A blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault that gracefully leaps across the palate with flavors of fresh red fruits and lively acidity.
E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2014 ($15)
Fruity and plump with great structure, this is a luscious red that you can enjoy all year long. A blend of mostly Syrah and Grenache with a dash of Mourvedre, this is an exceptionally good wine at any price point and an outright steal at $15!
E. Guigal Crozes-Hermitage 2015 ($28)
Many consider Crozes-Hermitage the gateway to the wines of the Northern Rhône Valley and this beauty from E. Guigal is an excellent starting point. With more fruit, more color, and more tannins, Philippe describes this bold red as having "characteristics of an outstanding vintage." Spicy and savory with pristine rich fruit, fine earthy tannins, and pulsing minerality, this wine eloquently expresses the essence of the terroir and Guigal's attentive winemaking.
E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde 2014 ($75)
One of my favorite red wines from anywhere, this sultry blend of rich & peppery Syrah with a kiss of juicy Viognier is a standout. As the alluring wine develops in the glass, each sip reveals deeper levels of flavor and complexity. Worth the splurge!
I thoroughly enjoyed my 2nd annual tasting with Philippe Guigal and hope we continue this tradition of sharing great wine and plenty of laughs for many years to come!