On a recent visit to Chicago, Philippe Guigal shared a sneak peak of his highly anticipated 2015 white wines. White accounts for 2% of Rhone Valley’s production so these are easy to overlook. However, at Guigal, white wine is 20% of their output, so there must be something to it, right? Could this be the next “big thing” in wine? After all, these wines are the perfect middle ground and are a great opportunity to try something new: lighter and zestier than Chardonnay and more guts than a Sauvignon Blanc. Across the board these wines show excellent balance, structure, and kaleidoscopic flavor, with near endless possibilities for food pairing.
The tasting highlighted mostly the coming releases, which are the best to date and will pay off with cellaring. Most will be out this fall. Current releases are mostly in stock today and will be ready to drink sooner.
Cotes-du-Rhone Rose 2016
Compared to the 2015, this is softer and juicier, picking up a little gumminess but finishing dry and not candied. As always, this is a great bridge for those new to Rose.
Cotes-du-Rhone Blanc 2015
Most other wines in this category are led by Marsanne, Roussanne or Grenache Blanc. Guigal, however, highlights Viognier as the leading variety, usually around 60%. Philippe explains that since they are from the Northern Rhone they make this Southern wine with a Northern approach. Viognier lovers will find great joy in this value.
Crozes-Hermitage Blanc 2015
This freshly styled wine displays yellow apples, slightly oxidized yellow pears, saline and baking spices. A great intro for Rhone whites made without Viognier.
Hermitage Blanc 2014
The premium Ex Voto Blanc wasn’t produced in 2014, so the fruit went here. The flavors start with preserves of apple, white currant and pale cranberries. There is a very unique element of browned butter, egg white, bee’s wax and cement-like minerality.
Ex Voto Hermitage Blanc 2013
This begins with dry flavors of spiced honey pie and salted butter. The fruit gives early picked apples, pears and quince brushed with quinine. Today the wine is young, with bracing acidity. Time will tell and I can’t wait to hear what it has to say.
Saint-Joseph Lieu-Dit Blanc 2015
With air this wine exhibits flavors of spiced orange, piecrust, crème fraiche. Full bodied, with bright acidity. A great second step for classic Rhone whites and a fantastic value considering its proximity to the more expensive Hermitage.
When tasting these wines it is easy to see why the Guigal family loves Viognier so much. It is full of honey-butter, exotic fruits, peach and lychee. This wine is wonderfully rich but maintains its classic dry style.
Condrieu ‘La Doriane’ 2015
Only made in exceptional vintages, the La Doriane takes what the standard Condrieu has to another level of intensity. The tropical fruit goes on for days, encompassing elements of granite and autumnal spices. Tasting this made me feel like Violet Beauregarde chewing the most amazing, fabulous, sensational gum in the world.
We tried some reds too, because as Philippe says, “I don’t have blood in my veins, I have Cote-Rotie.” The acid on all of these was fierce; so grab the more drinkable vintages: 2012, 2010, 2007, 2006, while waiting for these to arrive and mature.
Ch. D’Ampuis 2013
(93% Syrah, 7% Viognier)
This is the most accessible of the reds. As is typical for the region, this starts with meaty notes of beef jerky, blueberry, and cracked pepper. Beyond that comes its uniqueness- roasted cola, blackened black currant and charred lavender.
La Mouline 2013
(89% Syrah, 11% Viognier)
The higher percent of Viognier is noticeable in the extra floral characters and in a softer, rounder tannic structure. This is much more focused on blackberry, grape skin and peppercorns.
La Turque 2013
(93% Syrah, 7% Viognier)
This is more tannic that the previous two, and a more ponderous wine. Too young and muted today but will do well in the future. Right now there is a sense of peppery, boysenberry jelly and charred earth.
La Landonne 2013
The absence of Viognier here is noticeable in rougher texture and calmer aromatics. The nose is similar to the previous wines but spicier. Once you get past the texture of liquid Velcro, the palate this is like a Syrah-sassafras-root beer-float garnished with a strip of salted pork jerky. The fruit is hidden today but cellaring will pay off.
The Rhone Valley is on a stretch of exciting vintages leading up to these magnificent 2015s. I urge you to start drinking more of the whites. You will not be disappointed!
This is a guest post written by Jon Adam, Wine Manager at Binny’s Oak Brook.