In 1946 Étienne Guigal created the eponymously named wine house E Guigal. He oversaw a renaissance of the great Grand Cru appellation Côte-Rôtie, which had been almost abandoned. He built his reputation around two extraordinary Côte-Rôtie cuvees, the exquisitely structured La Landonne and the velvety, finessed La Mouline. In 1985 the polished yet boisterous La Turque was introduced, cementing the success of the house. These three wines make up the holy trinity of the Northern Rhone; La Mouline, La Landonne and La Turque are all single estate vineyards and have been collectively coined as the La Las. Guigal has received more 100 point ratings for his La Las from Robert Parker than any other wine producer. La Landonne had seven perfect scores from 1985 to 2005, La Mouline nine from 1976 to 2005 and La Turque five from 1985 to 2005. In 2009 all three La Las scored a perfect 100 points.
In 1961 Marcel Guigal, the son of Étienne, took over the Estate and is now considered one of the greatest wine-makers in the world, unequivocally demonstrating that Côte-Rôtie must be present in the pantheon of the world’s leading wines. Parker has perhaps more admiration for the Guigals than any other wine-making family: ‘The importance of a wine’s upbringing (or, as the French call it, elevage) is the key to understanding the entire Guigal locomotive. No one does it better; no one has done it longer; and no one seems to have the Midas touch for putting the wines in the bottle at precisely the right moment to capture the essence of a wine before it begins to fade or lose its vibrancy.’
The broadening of the wine market has been a major driver behind our investment philosophy over the last two years. The switch of market sentiment from Bordeaux 18 months ago to Burgundy was an obvious substitution of brands. The steep rise of Super Tuscan wine followed, replicating the great wines of Bordeaux, with a touch of Italian sun. The Northern Rhone is narrower in terms of investment grade wines, yet Guigal’s La Las, along with Chapoutier’s La Meal and Paul Jaboulet’s La Chapelle certainly are considered such. Guigal’s La Las have been the highest scoring and most consistent of all of these and over the last five years have achieved 8% compound annual growth rate. They have also experienced an increase in liquidity with Liv-ex reporting that the Rhone has recently seen 6% of total monthly trading, five times more than the average in 2011.
The perfect scoring 100 point La Las are some of the most sought after wines in the world, yet the combined three single vineyard plots produce a meagre 1,500 cases, making them virtually unobtainable in older vintages. They each scored 100 points in 1999, 2003 and 2005, we have compared the prices of these vintages below. It is clear that the 2009s have a lot of head room compared to the older vintages, priced 33% below the 1999s, 27% below the 2003s and 9% below the 2005s. We posit therefore that the 2009s will benefit from the brand’s average yearly returns and the older vintage premium evident in these wines, something less apparent in Bordeaux.
La Mouline 2009, 3×75 – £1,100 – 100 Parker Points
La Mouline, typically a blend of 11% Viognier and 89% Syrah, is renowned for being the most floral of three top wines. It is made from the oldest vines and is vinified differently than its siblings, using the pumping-over technique, instead of the punching down used by La Turque and immersed cap by La Landonne. These techniques have an affect akin to brewing tea bags. Pumping over recirculates the fermenting juice over the cap without breaking it; punching down recirculates the fermenting juice over the cap thereby breaking it. This has the same effect as leaving a tea bag at the top of the pot, which means the tea is less aromatic and tannic.
The 2009 Côte-Rôtie La Mouline possesses off-the-charts richness. Like all the vintages, it comes from the Cote Blonde and is co-fermented with 11% Viognier. Its 13.5% alcohol is one of the highest in all the La Moulines made to date, which shows you that these wines are never that powerful. Extraordinary layers of concentration offer up notes of roasted coffee, sweet black cherries, black raspberries, blackberries, licorice and hints of spring flowers as well as lychee nuts (no doubt attributable to the floral/honeysuckle character of Viognier). With its full-bodied, extravagant richness, the 2009 La Mouline should be relatively approachable in 1-2 years, and last for two decades or more. 100 points Robert Parker
La Turque 2009, 3×75 – £1,100 – 100 Parker Points
La Turque, is typically a blend of 7% Viognier (which is co-fermented) and 93% Syrah. Stylistically it is described as an intermediate between La Landonne and La Mouline. La Turque, like La Mouline, is aged for 42 months in 100% new French oak, it is bottled unfined and unfiltered. The first vintage was in 1985 and comes from the youngest vines, which as Parker points out ‘puts a kink in the French myth that old vines are always the best.’
Another perfect wine is the 2009 Côte-Rôtie La Turque. It possesses a slightly denser purple color than the opaque Côte-Rôtie La Mouline as well as notes of Asian spices, roasted meats, bouquet garni, spring flowers, camphor and truffles. It is a different expression of Syrah as this comes from the more iron-laden soils of the Cote Brune. Although never as aromatic, precocious or enjoyable as La Mouline is in its youth, La Turque is, nevertheless, a remarkably concentrated, profound wine that is built like a skyscraper. It possesses a level of intensity and richness that must be tasted to be believed. Despite the flamboyant personality of the vintage, the 2009 will require 4-5 years of cellaring and should age effortlessly for 25-30 years. 100 points Robert Parker
La Landonne 2009, 3×75 – £1,100 – 100 Parker Points
La Landonne is 100% Syrah and the most tannic of the La Las. It has been produced since the 1978 vintage and the vines are now 35 years old, making it the big brother in terms of style.
The 2009 Côte-Rôtie La Landonne is a killer wine. An extravagant bouquet of black truffles, roasted meats, licorice, ground pepper, blackberries, scorched earth and camphor soars from this muscular, dense, over-the-top, serious, masculine La Landonne. Built like Arnold Schwarzenegger was two decades ago, this enormously concentrated bodybuilder of a wine should hit its prime in a decade, and last 40-50 years. This is no trivial boast as the debut vintage of La Landonne, the 1978, is just reaching full maturity at age 34. 100 points Robert Parker
We believe that as a set these wines constitute one of the best investments possible in the fine wine market at present and perfect to lay down and open on a very special occasion(s) in years to come.