2018 Guigal Cotes-du-Rhone Blanc

Year: 2018
Appellation: Rhone
Country: France
Wine Advocate: 89
Vinous Media: 91
Jeb Dunnuck: 90
White Wine
Alcohol by Volume: 14.5%
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"More than half Viognier, with the balance rounded out by Roussanne, Bourboulenc and just 2% Grenache Blanc, the 2018 Cotes du Rhone Blanc is rich and tropical. It's full-bodied, silky and mouth coating, a charming white to drink over the next couple of years.

Tasting at Guigal is always one of the highlights of my Northern Rhône trip. Because of the family's breadth of production and hallmark long élevage, it provides a chance to look at several vintages together, along with commentary from the knowledgeable patriarch, Marcel Guigal. This year, I was joined by Marcel, his son Philippe and Jacques Desvernois, hired away from Jaboulet in the summer of 2018, for a five-hour marathon in the chilly cellar beneath the company's headquarters in Ampuis. Despite the cool temperatures, there were smiles all around at the quality of the samples on the table. "Global warming has been fabulous for the Northern Rhône," said Marcel at one point.

It would be easy to overlook some of the lesser wines in the cellar and zoom straight to the single-vineyard Côte Rôties, but for readers on a budget, the company has plenty of good wine to offer, starting with the mammoth quantities produced of the basic Côtes du Rhône (4.5 million bottles of the 2016 rouge). From the north, the closest equivalent is the Crozes-Hermitage, but I favor the Saint-Joseph in most vintages for its more granitic expression of Syrah. The whites here (outside of Condrieu, where they are the largest producer) are often overlooked, but I believe the quality is improving. Philippe Guigal said they worked the lees of the whites sparingly in 2018 to avoid any heaviness. While the focus of my visit is on the north, Guigal produces several wines from the Southern Rhône, which were included in the tasting. Indeed, for a négociant, Guigal does a terrific job maintaining consistency in their Southern Rhône bottlings. Interestingly, although they now own a large property in Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Château de Nalys), sourcing for the négociant CdP remains completely separate. "We have two hemispheres in our brains," said Philippe. "Guigal and Nalys." The latest Nalys wines were reviewed previously, as part of my Châteauneuf-du-Pape coverage." (WA)

"Light yellow. Mineral-tinged aromas of Meyer lemon, pear and white peach are complemented by a suave floral overtone. Juicy, pure and energetic on the palate, offering pliant orchard and pit fruit and honeysuckle flavors that show sharp definition and back-end lift. Rich but energetic as well, delivering strong finishing cut and lingering florality. The Viognier is definitely making itself heard here." (VM)

"The quality of this cuvée has soared over the past decade, and the 2018 Côtes du Rhône Blanc is another terrific vintage. Tasting like a mini Condrieu with its floral, orange blossom, and honeysuckle aromas and flavors, it’s medium-bodied, fresh, and lively on the palate, with an attractive mix of richness and freshness. Drink it over the coming year or two." (JD)