Some wines are so familiar that I ignore them when shopping. There’s an element of snobbery at work here; it feels so much cooler (do people still say cool?) to be drinking something obscure. When I worked at Oddbins we never touched the Moët, the Jacob’s Creek or the Campo Viejo; we even used to be snobbish about which lager we drank after work insisting that Superbok was vastly superior to Beck’s. Guigal’s Côtes du Rhone was just such a wine. I don’t remember any fellow Oddbinites drinking it or recommending it to customers. When people used to buy it, to my shame, I looked down my prominent nose at them.
Well more fool me because year in, year out, it’s one of the best value wines in existence. It’s made by one of the most lauded names in the Rhone, Marcel Guigal, a hero to most though not of course to Kermit Lynch who describes Guigal’s heavily oaked Côte-Rôties as ‘Freak Wines.’ These single vineyard wines cost ££££ but there is another side to his business producing wines from bought-in grapes. The Cotes du Rhone is his cheapest and it is made in vast quantities: over 3.5 million bottles of this latest vintage. It’s made from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre and is a masterpiece of the blender’s art with Guigal buying in grapes from dozens of growers across the Southern Rhone. Unusually for a mass market wine, it’s also matured for at least 18 months before release.
It may be my memory playing tricks on me but the 07 seems even more delicious than previous vintages. It has more structure and so opens up after decanting or being left open overnight. There a lot of fruit – blackcurrants, figs, something red perhaps – but also some lovely mellow woody flavours owing to maturity with a very long finish. I ‘tested’ it against another 07 Côtes-du-Rhone from a legendary Northern Rhone producer, in this case JL Chave with his ‘Mon Coeur‘. The Chave tasted classier, cooler, more Northern Rhone whereas the Guigal is defiantly Southern but none the worse for it. Where the Guigal wins out is that it still tastes young & robust, in comparison the Chave is at its peak and starts to fall apart when left open overnight.
There’s an element of urgency to this post because not only is the Guigal only £7.99 at Waitrose until 20th March but they have the 07 whereas most other people are on to the 09. I’m sure the new vintage is good but 2007 was one of the great years in the Rhone and this wine does love a bit of age.