Guigal Saint-Joseph Vignes de l'Hospice Rouge 2005
-Wine Advocate 93-95
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.
A long and narrow valley producing flavorful red, white, and rosé wines, the Rhône is bisected by the river of the same name and split into two distinct sub-regions—north and south. While a handful of grape varieties span the entire length of the valley, there are significant differences between the two zones in climate and geography as well as the style and quantity of wines produced. The Northern Rhône, with its continental climate and steep hillside vineyards, is responsible for a mere 5% or less of the greater region’s total output. The Southern Rhône has a much more Mediterranean climate, the aggressive, chilly Mistral wind and plentiful fragrant wild herbs known collectively as ‘garrigue.’
In the Northern Rhône, the only permitted red variety is Syrah, which in the appellations of St.-Joseph, Hermitage, Cornas and Côte-Rôtie, it produces velvety black-fruit driven, savory, peppery red wines often with telltale notes of olive, game and smoke. Full-bodied, perfumed whites are made from Viognier in Condrieu and Château-Grillet, while elsewhere only Marsanne and Roussanne are used, with the former providing body and texture and the latter lending nervy acidity. The wines of the Southern Rhône are typically blends, with the reds often based on Grenache and balanced by Syrah, Mourvèdre, and an assortment of other varieties. All three northern white varieties are used here, as well as Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourbelenc and more. The best known sub-regions of the Southern Rhône are the reliable, wallet-friendly Côtes du Rhône and the esteemed Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Others include Gigondas, Vacqueyras and the rosé-only appellation Tavel.
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.