For me, great wine of the Northern Rhône is synonymous with the name Etienne Guigal. He started his wine company in 1946. Prior to that, beginning at the age of 14 years old, he’d been making wine for the largest winery in the Rhône. In 1961, Etienne’s son, Marcel, joined and started running the company because Etienne became blind. Marcel has been leading the company since then. Today, Marcel’s son, Philippe, is the winemaker. They own approximately 61 hectares in the Northern Rhône. Maison E. Guigal is a négociant company, so they supplement the vineyards they own with fruit from growers they’ve worked with for many years.
For farming for their vineyards, they practice sustainable viticulture and don’t use any chemicals, herbicides or pesticides. They concentrate on caring for their vineyards and some of the vines date back to 1890.
In terms of winemaking, they use indigenous yeast for the fermentation, and the wines are aged in barrel for a long time – up to three and a half years. Beginning in 2003, they make all the barrels that they use for ageing themselves. Here, oak is king. All of Guigal’s “La La’s” are aged in barrel for 42 months. A gradual exchange occurs between the oak and the wine allowing the wine to evolve and improve consistently under the watchful eye of the winemaker.
A couple of weeks ago, I drank a bottle of 1996 ‘La Landonne’ with friends. The first vintage of ‘La Landonne’ was 1978, and it’s made from 100% Syrah. It’s distinctly different from its “La La” siblings, ‘La Turque’ and ‘La Mouline’ which both contain a percentage of Viognier. From the moment the bottle of 1996 'La Landonne' was opened, the wine was already expressing rich and intense aromas of blackcurrants, blackberries and spicy notes of nutmeg, liquorice and cinnamon; it was like a big guy showing off with its power and flavours. We were all quite enamoured with the wine, but a few of us kept some in our glass to experience its evolution over another few hours. The wait was worth it. After this additional time in the glass, the wine became silkier and more elegant. Very beautiful aromas of dried cherry, game and herbs came through on the palate. The tannins became soft, and the wine left a lingering finish.
My Northern Rhône wine loving friends are planning another evening of “La La” drinking, so I’ll be sure to update you on our next tasting experience with the wines of Maison E. Guigal. Here’s our list of available stock, so you can try some for yourself. It will be the perfect way for you to celebrate the Year of the Rat. Perhaps, share a bottle or two with your family paired with Kwan Kee's beef and egg with Chinese sausage claypot rice or lamb hot pot. Kung Hei Fat Choy!