E. Guigal’s La La’s — The Finest Côte-Rôtie?

E. Guigal’s single vineyard Côte-Rôties (also known as the La La’s) certainly generate plenty of superlatives. These three distinct wines are the most expensive from France’s Rhône Valley and they are some of the most sought-after bottlings on the planet. They also consistently garner top ratings from critics, including Robert Parker who once proclaimed, “Guigal’s single vineyard Côte-Rôties are other-worldly in nearly every vintage. I have given these offerings more perfect scores than any other wines in the world.” In fact, these three wines have received 21 perfect 100-point scores from Mr. Parker: nine vintages of La Mouline; seven of La Landonne; and five of La Turque. The 2003 release of all three wines earned 100-point scores and retailed for up to $800 a bottle, the most expensive bottling of any Rhone wine. Robert Parker isn’t the only wine industry icon who loves Côte-Rôtie. Jancis Robinson (The Oxford Companion to Wine) calls it “one of the most exciting red wine appellations in France.” She also proclaimed, “One man, Marcel Guigal, is chiefly responsible for the recent renaissance of this zone.”

OK, enough with the superlatives. Most wine geeks agree that the La La’s are special wines. Let’s explore what makes these Côte-Rôties so unique and also learn more about their famous producer.

E. Guigal, located at Ampuis in the northern Rhône Valley, is both a domaine and negociant. That is, they vinify grapes from their own estate vineyards and also purchase grapes and wines from other growers and producers throughout the Rhône Valley. All of the wines, however, are meticulously finished, aged and bottled in Guigal’s own cellars. In addition to Côte-Rôtie (or ‘roasted slope’) they also produce wine from almost every other Rhone AOC, including Condrieu, Hermitage, Croze-Hermitage, St. Joseph, Tavel, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and Côtes du Rhône.

The firm is best known, however, for Côte-Rôtie, and in addition to the La La’s, they produce  a “regular” bottling called Brune et Blonde (retails for about $70) and Château d’Ampuis, which is produced from seven old-vine hillside parcels (retails for approximately $160).

Back to those incredible La La’s. La Landonne is a 5.2 acre vineyard exclusively planted to syrah and the wine is also 100% syrah. La Mouline’s 2.5 acres are planted to 89% syrah and 11% viognier, and the wine itself generally follows the same ratio. La Turque’s 2.3 acres are comprised of 93% syrah and 7% viognier and, as with La Mouline, the bottling is roughly the same as the vineyard plantings. All three of the La La’s spend 42 months aging in new French oak and the average yields are just under two tons per acre. (In France and Europe, vineyard sizes are typically measured in hectares: one hectare equals 2.47 acres. Yields there are computed in hectolitres per hectare. The above conversions are mine.)

It is also useful to know that France’s AOC law allows Côte-Rôtie to contain up to 20% viognier. The aromatics of syrah are enhanced by the addition of viognier and this white grape also, counterintuitively, enhances syrah with a deeper color when they are co-fermented.

The La La’s are obviously special wines from a venerable Rhone Valley producer. Their prices do not necessarily make them accessible to most of us, but they are a great expression of what is possible from Rhone wines, and they shed much-deserved light on Guigal’s other more approachable Côte-Rôties, and the amazing wines from the rest of their portfolio.

The U.S. importer of E. Guigal is Vintus Wines.

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~ by Thomas on December 5, 2010.

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