Back in September, I attended a Winetasters of Toronto tasting of a vertical of E. Guigal Hermitage. We tasted 8 wines, the oldest being from the 1976 vintage and the youngest from 2003. Definitely a delicious experience.
The estate of E. Guigal is probably best known for its wines from exceptional terroir in the Cote Rotie in the Northern Rhone. Sites such as La Mouline, La Turque, and La Landonne produce outstanding and highly sought after wines with price tags to match. But, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Guigal also owns vineyards in other famous appellations in the Rhone Valley – Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Saint Joseph, Condrieu, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Tavel, and Cotes du Rhone.
E. Guigal was founded in 1945 by Etienne Guigal. The wines are now crafted by Etienne’s grandson Philippe Guigal who continues in the family’s footsteps of making exceptional Rhone Valley wines.
E. Guigal 1976 Hermitage: A medium brownish colour with mature aromas of leather, animal, earth, and loads of spice, prunes and dried fruit notes. The wine is full-bodied with still firm, but well-integrated tannins and a long finish. The same leather, animal, earth, spice and dried fruit flavours follow through. This wine is drinking well now, especially for those wine lovers who like mature wines, but if you have any of this in your cellar you may think about drinking it up soon. In my top 3 of the tasting.
Northern Rhone 1978: The best vintage in the Rhone since 1961. A cold and wet spring was saved by hot and dry weather throughout the summer and lasting into October. September was very hot, resulting in grapes of ultimate ripeness. The wines of this vintage are typically big, rich, and concentrated wines that are well-balanced and aging well.
E. Guigal 1978 Hermitage: A medium brownish colour with slightly herbaceous, vegetal, dried dark fruit, chocolate, and a dusty character. On the palate, I found this wine a bit tart with a disappointingly short finish. This was one of my least favourite wines of the tasting – quite surprising from this highly praised vintage.
Northern Rhone 1991: A very hot and dry summer leading to heavy rain in September. Outbreaks of rot were a problem. The best wines from the Northern Rhone have ripe, creamy black fruit and finesse.
E. Guigal 1991 Hermitage: A medium garnet core with a tawny rim. Rich aromas of dark fruit and wild berries, chocolate, and a meaty, animal character. Luxurious and full-bodied, this wine is delicious, with ripe dark berry flavours, soft cedar notes, and a long length. Balanced and drinking beautifully. This was my favourite of the tasting.
Northern Rhone 1992: The weather in the spring and summer was good but September was very wet and stormy, resulting in dilution and outbreaks of rot. Many Northern Rhone wines are soft and elegant but are aging rather quickly.
E. Guigal 1992 Hermitage: A medium garnet colour with a brownish rim. Aromas of stewed dark fruit, spice, and a savoury note. Rich and full-bodied, this wine has flavours of dried fruit, prunes, and spice. Balanced with a long finish. Also in my top 3 of the tasting.
Northern Rhone 1993: Not a very good year in the Northern Rhone. Severe frost in May drastically reduced yields and heavy rain in September caused rot and dilution.
E. Guigal 1993 Hermitage: An abundance of ripe plum and red fruit aromas with notes of tar, chocolate, and a meaty character. The red and black berry fruit flavours are still quite fresh on the palate finishing with a long length. A very good wine – drinking well.
Northern Rhone 1994: A pretty good vintage with some excellent wines produced. 1994 has unfortunately been over-shadowed by the more opulent 1995 vintage.
E. Guigal 1994 Hermitage: Aromas of dried fruit, nutmeg and other baking spices are evident. Quite tart on the palate with flavours of slightly underripe plums. Not one of my favourites.
Northern Rhone 1996: A long and even growing season in the Northern Rhone with a warm, but not hot summer. September was dry allowing the grapes to hang as long as possible to achieve full ripeness.
E. Guigal 1996 Hermitage: Lots of earthy dried fruit aromas. Flavours of white pepper, dried red cherries and other dried berries, with soft tannins and good acidity. The short finish was a bit disappointing.
Northern Rhone 2003: A very hot summer. The biggest danger for winemakers was grapes with very high sugar levels and a lack of acidity. Syrah was harvested early – most was in by the end of the first week of September.
E. Guigal 2003 Hermitage: A dark ruby colour with a purplish hue. Quite aromatic with aromas of black raspberries, plums, blackcurrant, and spice. Lots of rich, dark fruit and spice on the palate. Full-bodied with firm tannins and a good length. A bit hot on the finish. Needs a bit more time in the bottle to mellow out a bit, but a very good wine. This was the overall favourite of the group.