It may sound redundant and trite, but Marcel Guigal has done it once again. With the release of his 2005 Condrieu, he has demonstrated why he and his family owned domain receive so much praise and adulation. Condrieu, the world's finest Viognier and one of France's most revered white wines from the tiny Rhône appellation of the same name, is a difficult wine to master. Yet, Guigal has raised the bar in Condrieu by his latest effort. He has also demonstrated that he is equally adept at producing the Rhône Valley's most compelling white wine as well as red. It is no wonder then that Marcel Guigal has been called everything from "the man with the Midas touch" to "the planet's greatest living winemaker." Unquestionably, Guigal has earned the reputation for fashioning some of southern France's most exciting wines, as the flood of favorable reviews and critical acclaims of his wines will attest. Yet, perhaps, even more impressive is Guigal's knack for consistency. Without fail, Guigal's wines, whether they are red, white, or rosé, top the charts in both good years and bad. Moreover, each of Guigal's many fine wines has become the yardstick by which all others are judged in their respective appellations.
From the antique village of Ampuis, the birthplace of the great Côte-Rotie appellation, the burgeoning wine empire of Guigal has spread to every significant appellation in the Rhône Valley. Led by Marcel and his adept son and protégé, Philippe, the Guigals have sown success and quality far and wide, and in the process forced less quality minded producers to improve their wines or perish. Most notable of Guigal's wines are the firm's several Côte-Rotie offerings, which are universally acknowledged to be the supreme examples from this ancient 2, 400 year old vineyard that dates back to early Roman times. On qualitative par with this estate's Côte-Rotie are several Condrieu offerings made from the finicky but other worldly white grape variety Viognier. There is also an excellent red Hermitage from Guigal, a wine that is certainly one of the deepest and longest-lived expressions of the Syrah grape. In a similar full-bodied, personality filled style are Guigal's newest stars: a Crozes-Hermitage Rouge and a Crozes-Hermitage Blanc, all of which are already the standard by which all other Crozes-Hermitage wines are measured, and Guigal has only produced Crozes- Hermitage since 1999. Last but not least are the firm's delicious Côtes du Rhône offerings – red, white, and rosé. The red Côtes du Rhône contains a high percentage of old vine Syrah, while the white sports a similar amount of Viognier, a practice few other producers would even think to emulate. Yet, it is just such practices that set Guigal apart.
The key to Guigal's success has always been quite simple. He cultivates his own vineyards organically with no chemical fertilizers or treatments and picks his grapes late when they are just about ready to explode with their own maturity. This late harvest, low yields, and minimal intervention (including no filtration) give birth to fragrant, round, ripe natural wines that are immensely pleasurable to drink. When purchasing juice from other producers, a practice that has helped Guigal augment his own estate holdings and hone his extraordinary winemaking skills, Guigal holds those growers to the same exacting standards he sets in his own vineyard. He buys only from producers he knows well who subscribe to his philosophy that old vines, low yields, and a late harvest are prerequisites for producing excellent wine. And, if these exacting requirements are not enough to insure quality, Guigal adds traditional wine ageing in new oak for extended periods of time. In short, Guigal leaves nothing to chance and is willing to go the limit, both in the vineyard and in the winery. Bravo!