Guigal Ermitage Ex Voto Rouge 2003
-Wine Advocate 98-100
The Guigal domain was founded in 1946 by Etienne Guigal in the ancient village of Ampuis, home of the wines of the Côte-Rôtie. In these vineyards that are over 2400 years old, you can still see the small terraced walls characteristic of the Roman period. Etienne Guigal arrived in this region in 1923 at the age of 14. He made wine for over 67 vintages and, at the beginning of his career, participated in the development of the Vidal-Fleury establishment.
Despite his young age, Marcel Guigal took over from his father in 1961 when the latter was victim to a brutal illness rendering him blind. Marcel's hard work and perseverance enabled the Guigals to buy out Vidal-Fleury in 1984, although the establishment retains its own identity and commercial autonomy. In 2000, the Guigals purchased the Jean-Louis Grippat estate in Saint-Joseph and Hermitage, as well as the Domaine de Vallouit in Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage, Saint-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage.
In the cellars of the Guigal estate in Ampuis, the northern appellations of the Rhône Valley are produced and aged. These are the appellations of Côte-Rôtie, Condrieu, Hermitage, Saint-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage. The great appellations of the Southern Rhône, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Tavel and Côtes-du-Rhône, are also aged in the Ampuis cellars.
One of the smallest and most important Syrah regions of northern Rhone, Hermitage is practically one single south-facing slope of crushed granite, thinly covered with varied, yet well-charted soil types. Many climats (well identified parcels) exist within Hermitage and while some smaller producers make single climat Syrahs, some larger ones blend to make one balanced expression of the appellation.
Though the AC regulations allow the addition of up to 15% white grapes to a red Hermitage, in practice it is usually made from Syrah alone. Winemaking is pretty traditional—or you might say historic—with hot fermentations and aging in older barrels of various sizes. The best wines, characterized by deep, dense and sexy flavors of black fruit, cocoa, licorice and tobacco, have massive textures and a solid 10-20 years aging potential.
The region of Hermitage is totally enclosed; the only place it could go really is to literally fall down its own hill into the city of Tain or the Rhone River. Soil erosion is a problem and terraces exist alongside the hill in order to keep the earth in place. Crozes-Hermitage encloses the region entirely to its north and south.
While Hermitage seems synonymous with some of the best Syrah on the planet, actually about one third of the wine produced here comes from white grapes. The full, lush and robust Marsanne or the less common, but almost more charming, Roussanne create wonderful whites in which the best have great potential for aging, like the reds.
Marked by an unmistakable deep purple hue and savory aromatics, Syrah accounts for a good deal of some of the most intense, powerful and age-worthy reds in the world. Native to the Northern Rhône, Syrah still achieves some of its maximum potential here, especially from Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie.
Syrah also plays an important component in the canonical Southern Rhône blends based on Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, adding color, depth, complexity and structure to the mix. Today these blends have become well-appreciated from key appellations of the New World, namely Australia, California and increasingly, with praise, from Washington.
In the Glass
Syrah typically shows aromas and flavors of purple fruits, fragrant violets, baking spice, white pepper and even bacon, smoke or black olive. In Australia, where it goes under the name Shiraz, it produces deep, dark, intense and often, jammy reds. While Northern Rhône examples are typically less fruity and more earthy, California appears increasingly capable of either style.
Flavorful Moroccan-spiced lamb, grilled meats, spareribs and hard, aged cheeses are perfect with Syrah. Blue cheeses are perfect with a dense and fruit-driven Australian Shiraz.
Due to the success of Australian “Shiraz,” winemakers throughout the world have adopted this synonym for Syrah when they have produced a plush and fruit forward wine made in the Australian style. As an aside, Australians are also fond of tempering their fruit-forward Shiraz by blending with Cabernet Sauvignon, which adds depth and structure.