Guigal Château d’Ampuis Côte-Rôtie Vertical 1995-2009
It is almost impossible to talk about wines of the Rhône without mentioning the Guigal estate. Founded in 1946 by Etienne Guigal in the small village of Ampuis and now managed by his grandson Philippe (via Marcel in between), the estate has grown in size and reputation seemingly every year. The estate produces wines from all parts of the Rhône Valley, but it’s the breath-taking wines from the steep slopes of Côte Rôtie that have cemented the name of Guigal as one of the true legends of the wine world.
The famous “La-La” wines are considered the greatest wines from the Côte Rôtie vineyards; the three terroir-driven expressions have earned Guigal more 100 point scores than any other producer from Robert Parker, each wine going through a 42 month ageing regime yet still managing to express the true nature of the soil. La Mouline is often described as the most floral of the triumvirate, La Ladonne the most tannic and La Turque somewhere in between.
Guigal acquired the beautiful Château d’Ampuis on the bank of the Rhone River in 1995 and produced the inaugural vintage of the eponymous wine from the same vintage. The wine is produced using grapes from 7 terroirs (Le Clos, La Garde and La Grande Plantée from Côte Blonde; La Pommière, Le Pavillon Rouge, Le Moulin and La Viria from Côte Brune) and contains between 5% and 7% Viognier grapes, which are interspersed with the Syrah grapes in the vineyard and vinified as a field blend. The wines are aged in new oak from Guigal’s own cooperage for 38 months and fewer than 30,000 bottles are produced in most vintages.
The Château d’Ampuis wines are pitched a level lower than the “La-La” wines; however for a lot less money you are still getting some of the best wines that Côte Rôtie has to offer. This was my first time tasting these wines and if I had to make a decision between a bottle of Ampuis or a Bordeaux Grand Cru Classe I would certainly be setting my coordinates for eastern France… What an end to Syrah week on #newwinethisweek!
The tasting took place at the West London Wine School and I have to say a huge thank you to Trevor, another frequent visitor and student, who supplied the wines and expressed a great passion for the estate and in particular the wines of Château d’Ampuis.
Chateau d’Ampuis Cote Rotie 2009 (Fine & Rare £65)
Highly fragrant with lots of dark fruits and spice; black cherries, plums, blackcurrants and blueberries sit alongside black pepper, hints of spicy cured meat, smoke and a touch of dried fennel – truly wondrous. The flavours is hugely concentrated, with good acidity and a super-soft and silky texture. The tannins are a touch overbearing on the mid-palate but the finish is wonderfully long and complex. This wine has got a lot going for it; all it needs is a bit of time. 95+
Chateau d’Ampuis Cote Rotie 2007 (Fine & Rare £95)
Broody dark fruit but with just a hint of raspberry rearing it’s head the smoky bacon notes are present, along with spicy black pepper and plenty of dried herb – more delicate but just as complex as the 2009. There is a real zing on the palate with juicy red fruit and wonderful acidity. What I love about this wine is how the fruit stays with you throughout the long taste journey, supported by plenty of herbs and spice and just enough of the plush oak. Such a pure and elegant wine; right up my street! 96 points
Chateau d’Ampuis Cote Rotie 2005 (Fine & Rare £70)
A deep and perfumed nose with kirsch-like concentration and power. There is some spice also on show but it doesn’t half take some coaxing; could it be going through a dumb phase? This is a hefty wine with lots of weight; the flavours are dark fruits, chocolate and liquorice… it’s a beast! At the moment the tannin is getting in the way of the finish right now. One for the long haul perhaps? 92+
Chateau d’Ampuis Cote Rotie 2003 (Fine & Rare £80)
I must admit I haven’t met too many 2003s that I’ve wanted to drink again… but this may be the one. It is a hefty wine, as you would expect from an 03, with notes of chocolate and dried fruits; very rich but with a lovely herbal note wafting away in the background. Very nice indeed. It is brusk on the attack with some spiky tannins and some rough edges that I really like. Plenty of dark and concentrated dark fruit, balanced by an acidic freshness and a long and rich finish. Very good. 94 points
Chateau d’Ampuis Cote Rotie 2001 (Fine & Rare £65)
Highly fragrant nose with a delicious mix of red and black fruit and a lovely dose of expensive leather and spice coming through as well as lots of smoky bacon and even a hint of forest floor. The body is full and has a delicious freshness – ripe cherries jumping onto the palate – absolutely delicious. Behind the fruit are layers of smoky meat and leather; this is the one to be drinking right now! 96 points
Chateau d’Ampuis Cote Rotie 1999 (Fine & Rare £120)
Who would have thought it was going to get even better?! I am going to start by calling this a beautifully funkadelic wine – there is so much going its an absolute explosion on the nose. A delicious mix of red and black, fresh and dried fruit. The wine is developing wonderfully with notes of roasted meat and truffle coming through; fruity, earthy, spicy, herby… this is ACE! On the palate the elegance is simply brilliant, the tannins take a gentle grip and guide your mouth on a long, complex and fantastic voyage through fruit, spice, mineral, meat and a whole lot more. Bliss. 97 points
Chateau d’Ampuis Cote Rotie 1995 (Fine & Rare £95)
The aromas take a bit of coaxing out but they are there; lots of dried and fresh red fruits, strawberries even… and a touch of something a little rubbery. There is plenty of bright red fruit still at play before the meaty, earthy and leather notes take over. Good grippy tannins provide good structure but the finish is a bit flat and falls off pretty quickly. Not bad for the first vintage I suppose! 91 points