Driving down to the Rhone now. First stop at Ampuis is Guigal. The business was only started in 1946, but Guigal sells more than 6 million bottles per year now. Much of this is the negociant business from the Southern Rhone, but the real treasures are the owned vineyards in the Northern part. Given the large portfolio of wines, you do not know what is on the tasting table, but I was not going to be disappointed.
After a couple of quaffers, I try the 2012 Crozes-Hermitage. This 100% Shiraz is made from owned and bought-in grapes. It is a fruity, but nicely balanced wine (90 points). This is followed by the 2012 special block Vignes de l'Hospice from St. Joseph. This wine has spent three years in new oak, but the fleshy red plum fruit is taking it well. The wine has good depth, with some complex, smoky flavours and fine tannins (93 points). I then tried the 2007 Cote-Rotie, a blend of 96% Shiraz and 4% Viognier. The blackberry and plum flavours are good, the minty notes are a bit irritating and overall, the wine is somewhat astringent (91 points).
Then come two absolute highlights. The 2011 Chateau d'Ampuis comes from seven blocks of the famous blonde and brune vineyards. 7% of Viognier is co-fermented in this wine. The red berry fruit is elegant, the sizeable Viognier component not too noticeable. This is a wine of great finesse, with a soft, alluring finish (96 points). I was lucky to be able to taste one of the famous LaLa wines, the 2011 La Landonne. This wine has spent 42(!) months in new oak, but you would not know it. The wine shows a strong plum aroma on the nose, but on the palate, blackberry and minerality notes dominate. This wine has deep intensity, but is very elegant at the same time, with a very silky mouthfeel: sheer class (97 points).
It is impressive to see that a high volume producer can still pay a lot of detailed attention to his premium wines.