The 1983 Guigal Côtes du Rhône that I took from y cellar the other day is an odd bottle only by virtue of its age. It was a modestly-priced
wine when I purchased it, and recent vintages can be
found pretty much anywhere and are still remarkably
The Côtes du Rhône AOC (Appellation d’origine
contrôlée) is located in both the northern and the
southern Rhône but mostly in the latter. In The Wines of
the Rhône, John Livingstone-Learmonth and Melvyn C.
H. Master (oh, to have invented those names!) write,
“Most Côtes du Rhône is an unpretentious country
wine that is sometimes very good, sometimes very
bad but nearly always pretty drinkable.”
Not so this one. Which is to say, “very good”
doesn’t come close to describing just how
wonderful it proved to be.
Guigal itself is located in Ampuis, in the
northern Rhône, but it makes wine from
appellations in both the north and the south.
It is best known for its Côtes-Rotie, of which
I recently drank a 1985 Brune et Blonde,
which is Guigal’s least expensive Côtes-Rotie
and may have been the best Rhône wine I’ve
ever had. (A bottle of Guigal’s single vineyard
Côtes-Rotie La Landonne may sell for nearly
a thousand dollars, upon release.)
It’s almost always a good idea to buy an
inexpensive wine from a winery that makes
expensive wonderful wines--for example,
the wine under discussion here or any of the
three La Vieille Ferme (Rhône) wines from the Perrin
family, who also make the renowned and much more
expensive Chateauneuf du Pape, Beaucastel.
The Guigal Côtes du Rhône is always a blend of
Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre. The 1983 most
likely had more Grenache than Syrah, whereas more
recent bottlings have more Syrah than Grenache.
The reason I had kept a presumably simple Côtes
du Rhône for over thirty years is that I had drunk
my other bottles of the same wine many years ago
and had liked them very much. I knew 1983 was
a great year in the Rhône and I decided I would
just keep this one bottle around and check it out
later…and later…and later.
Later is now (as it always, eventually,
I opened the wine. My first surprise was
that the cork was in superb shape, both hard
and supple, and I could even read upon it the
boldly lettered “E. Guigal Ampuis Rhône.”
The wine had a golden-red hue, which I
thought at first was more red than golden
(but see below).
The full-blown nose was earthy, graphitic,
and to me Italianate (which leads me to
note that I so often think that red wines I
particularly like might be, if I had to guess,
Italian; sometimes I wish I were Italian).
THE ODD BOTTLE
Old, Cheap, Astounding
E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge, 1983
by J. D. Landis