What to drink this week

Corners of the Rhône

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country Notebook - Harry Eyres shares the se­cret of some im­pres­sive lesser known ap­pel­la­tions

When I vis­ited the cel­e­brated fam­ily com­pany of E. Gui­gal in the north­ern Rhône last year, my over­rid­ing im­pres­sions were of al­most fa­nat­i­cal ded­i­ca­tion and pro­fes­sion­al­ism. The Gui­gal work ethic, passed on now down three gen­er­a­tions, is leg­endary: when I asked Mar­cel, the cur­rent pa­tri­arch, if he had in­ter­ests other than wine, there was a no­tice­able pause be­fore he men­tioned rac­ing cars. On a freez­ing Fe­bru­ary day, the 75 year old in­sisted on tak­ing me up the steep slopes of Côte-rôtie to in­spect what seemed like ev­ery sin­gle vine.

Why you should be drinking them

Gui­gal is best known for its mag­nif­i­cent Côte Rôties, in­clud­ing the so-called ‘La-la’ wines made from tiny plots, but the com­pany of­fers a splen­did range of wines from all corners of the Rhône val­ley, es­pe­cially the north­ern half. At a re­cent tast­ing, I was also im­pressed by ex­am­ples from lesser-known ap­pel­la­tions, in­clud­ing whites.

What to drink

If you know the strag­gly north­ern Rhône ap­pel­la­tion of St-joseph, it’s prob­a­bly for its flo­ral-scented reds, such as lesser Côte Rôtie. How­ever, Gui­gal’s St Joseph Lieu Dit Blanc 2012 (be­low, £270 per dozen, ex­clud­ing VAT; www.frw.co.uk) is very fine, big, full, rich and round, with im­pres­sive com­plex­ity. Crozes-her­mitage is also bet­ter known for reds, but Gui­gal’s Crozes-her­mitage 2014 (£126 per dozen, ex­clud­ing VAT; www.frw.co.uk) is haunt­ingly flo­ral on the nose, then fol­lows through with ripe apri­cot notes and firm min­er­al­ity on the palate. Gui­gal’s Côte Rôtie Brune et Blonde 2012 (£317 per dozen, ex­clud­ing VAT; www.frw.co.uk) has en­tic­ingly el­e­gant rasp­berry fruit—my notes say ‘aw­fully good—beau­ti­ful’.

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