1985 Guigal Cote du Rhone Wow TN, and question about grape sources

Just came back from the ERI auction in Chicago where I was the consignor of two local cellars. The auction company sent me back home with a trunkful of wine that they considered to be “un-auctionable”. After going through a previous batch of wines that were similarly dispatched, I found many of the wines to be drinkable, and more than half were actually quite good. The subject of this posting is one such bottle, a 1985 Guigal Cote de Rhone. While cataloging this particular cellar, and seeing these 6 like bottles, my first reaction was “Great! 1985 Guigal Cote Rotie, and old favorite of mine!” But instead these extremely similar labels read “Cote du Rhone”. So 2 months later (last Sunday night), upon return from Chicago, I opened a bottle.

Judging from this and the other bottles in the collection, storage conditions of this cellar was not an issue. Condition of this bottle was not much different than new. The cork withdrew in one piece and again in perfect condition. The nose was what you would expect for a mature wine, and the flavors were licorice, leather, and dark berry. Still plenty of fruit, accompanied by proper structure. This wine was actually similar to the last '85 Cote Rotie I remember, and certainly much more enjoyable to drink than a few of the 1970 Cru Classe Bordeaux that were snapped up earlier in the afternoon for quite bit more than the '85 CdR would have gone for had it not been rejected. I would guess, and I believe this was the case for this bottling around this circa, that Guigal used to sourced the grapes for his CdR from the Northern Rhone, and the cepage was predominantly Syrah. The wine certainly tasted (and looked) more like Syrah than a Southern Grenache-dominated wine. It did not have the same level of complexity, or finish, as from the famous sites like Cote Rotie or Hermitage, but for wine that sold for probably $5, and was abandoned for 24 years, this wine is exceptional. Recorked, gased, and finished on day 2, it was even better!

Next up tonight is a bottle of white Savigny-Les-Beaunes from Chartron et Trebuchet 1986. It looks pretty goldenish through the green bottle, so I have little expectations, but I’ll report back on the odd chance that it turned into a poor man’s Montrachet.


Back in July, a bunch of us were served the 1988 Guigal Cotes du Rhone blind and were truly shocked when it was revealed, given the positive qualities displayed by the wine. I think we are all correct to be shocked to some degree, but maybe we ought not to be?


I probably was not clear in my question; can anybody confirm the cepage of this wine, and where in the Rhone the grapes came from?

BTW, the 1986 White Burg was a Pernand-Vergelesses, not Savigny. It did pour out golden, and was definitely past its prime, but just old, not oxidized at all in a sherry sort of way that premox means to me. Another wine that would have brought in maybe $5 at auction that provided much more than that in educational value, and even a bit of vinous enjoyment.

Michael, it kind of amazes me when I see the tasting notes for a 5-10 year old wine that imply that the taster found it over the hill. James Laube in WS is a poster boy for doing that. Maybe it’s a personal taste preference, but unless a wine has gone bad due to bacterial spoilage, or faulty winemaking (i.e. residual sugar & yeast), there have been very few older bottles (under 30 years old) from quality producers that I have not found much pleasure in.

But this Guigal was still a surprise!

Errol – Today the wine is 50-55% syrah, 30% or so Grenache, with 15% Mourvèdre and others (http://www.guigal.com/vins_detail.php?langue=en&rub=4&id=53&millesime=1" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;). I believe it was more like 1/3-1/3-1/3 in the 80s but it always had substantially more syrah and mourvedre than most Cotes du Rhones.

I believe that the grapes come from the Southern Rhone, at least in large part. Though Guigal is based in Ampuis, he has a large negotiant operation in the south, and bottles Chateauneuf and Gigondas.

The truly remarkable thing is that Guigal maintains such extraordinary quality year in, year out, at such high volumes – 3.3 million bottles/275,000 cases (!) in 2005 (http://www.guigal.com/vins_detail.php?langue=en&rub=4&id=53&millesime=8" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;). Not quite Gallo or Yellow Tail quantities, but on the same order of magnitude. I believe he has long-term relations with producers who deliver wine (not grapes or juice) to him for blending.

I bought a couple of cases of the 1983 CdR when it was released and enjoyed them into the early 90s. (It was $5 a bottle as I recall.) When I moved to London in 1999, my local shop in Hampstead had the 83 for ₤15 ($23 or so at the time). It was gorgeous.

FYI, I think the 2005 is the best vintage of the CdR in some time. I’ve found that the leftovers are much better the second and third day, which bodes well for its future. I’m putting a few bottles away, as I have of the 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2003. In inflation-adjusted terms, the $13 price is probably a bit lower than the release price in the 1983.

Hats off to Marcel and Philippe Guigal!

I just checked Parker’s Rhone book and, in the 1997 edition, he said the blend was 25% syrah, 25% mourvedre and 50% grenache. That’s my recollection of what it was, more or less, in the 80s.