Some wines simply seem destined for greatness from the beginning. Hailing from the Côte-Rôtie appellation of the northern Rhône, a region rich with oenological history, Étienne Guigal’s empire was founded just over 60 years ago—not long at all, when you consider how many centuries many of the world’s top estates have existed. And yet, in just over half a century, Guigal has become a leading negociant for the Rhône and now vinifies as much as 40 percent of Côte-Rôtie wines.
Today, this producer’s “Big Three”—the La Mouline, La Landonne, and La Turque labels—are some of the rarest, most ardently desired wines in the world. Guigal’s “La La” wines, as they are known, are single-vineyard wines famous as much for their intensity as their consistency. They make excellent additions to any wine lover’s collection of bottles from this region.
The Savage Beauty of Guigal’s “La La” Wines
The secret to the success of Guigal’s La La wines has its roots in the terroir of the Rhône’s northernmost appellation. The vineyards in which Guigal’s Syrah and Viognier grapes are grown reside on steep, southern-facing slopes that ensure they receive enough sunlight and heat to withstand the freezing Le Mistral winds that howl through the hills come winter. The soil in which they grow—shallow, composed largely of granite and slate—is prone to erosion and must be carefully tended. Much as strife builds human character, the unforgiving nature of the weather and soil is what allows Guigal to produce wines with such intoxicatingly intense and complex aromas and flavors.
Even so, Guigal’s vintners don’t rely on terroir alone to achieve their success. In 1971, Guigal was among the first wineries in the region to pioneer the technique of aging wine in 100-percent new French oak barrels. Today, Guigal’s La La wines continue to be aged in new French oak for up to 42 months before bottling.
Guigal’s wines, and especially the La Las, can always be relied upon for a singular, sensational gustatory experience. Their heady aromas and potent, primal flavors have earned them a reputation as savagely sumptuous wines that linger with the drinker long after the last drop.
La Mouline is perhaps the most floral of the Big Three, with a silky-sweet flavor balance of exotic black and red fruits, earthy mineral notes, and violets. La Mouline’s grapes are grown in a vineyard planted on Côte Blonde with 89-percent Syrah and 11-percent Viognier. The vines average 75 years old.
Robert Parker wrote of the 2014 vintage, “Soaring florals emerge from the glass, accompanied by notes of dark fruit, espresso and grilled meat. Silky and seductive, it should drink well young yet be capable of developing for 20 years.”
La Landonne is a single-varietal Syrah wine bursting with dark fruit flavors mixed with smoked, gamey meats and gravelly minerality. La Landonne’s vines average around 35 years of age and thrive in the iron-rich limestone clay of Côte Brune. La Landonne takes the longest to mature of Guigal’s Big Three, but is always worth the wait.
Former Wine Advocate critic Jeb Dunnuck praised the 2016 vintage as a “textbook La Landonne [with] notes of smoked meats, black fruits, and crushed rocks as well as full-bodied richness, surprising elegance and finesse for this cuvée (but that’s the vintage), flawless balance, and a great finish.”
La Turque is, in some ways, halfway between the other two La Las, despite being grown on the youngest vines (averaging just 25 years of age). Darker and denser than La Mouline but not quite as tannic or powerful as La Landonne, La Turque’s appeal lies in its elegant complexity and quality. Supple, sensuous, and strongly expressive of its terroir, La Turque is made from a vineyard planted with 93-percent Syrah and seven-percent Viognier just a stone’s throw away from La Landonne on the steep slope of Côte Blonde.
Tasting the 2009 vintage, Jeb Dunnuck described it as “ripe and voluptuous, with incredible aromas and flavors of black currants, coffee bean, roasted meats, licorice and raw steak,” underscoring the density of its powerful flavors.
Choosing the Best Guigal “La La” Wine Vintages
It’s hard to go wrong with a La La wine of any vintage, but if you’re looking for the challenge and reward of collecting the very best of the best, below is a list of the highest-praised vintages for each label, with vintages listed from highest to lowest average score:
Excellent Younger Vintages
|La Mouline||2010, 2009, 2005, 2003, 2018, 2017, 2015, 2011, 2014, 2012, 2016, 2007, 2000, 2001, 2006, 2004|
|La Landonne||2015, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2005, 2003, 2018, 2011, 2017, 2007, 2016, 2006, 2014, 2013, 2001, 2000|
|La Turque||2010, 2009, 2005, 2003, 2018, 2015, 2017, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2007, 2016, 2001|
Top Older Vintages
|La Mouline||1999, 1991, 1988, 1985, 1983, 1995, 1990, 1982, 1989, 1998, 1997, 1994, 1987|
|La Landonne||1999, 1998, 1990, 1988, 1985, 1995, 1991, 1989, 1997, 1994, 1983, 1987, 1982|
|La Turque||1999, 1995, 1988, 1985, 1991, 1989, 1998, 1990, 1997, 1994, 1987, 1996|
Keep in mind as you search that, as sought-after as Guigal’s La La wines are, only a very limited quantity of each is produced each year—about 400 cases of La Mouline and La Turque, and 800 cases of La Landonne. Even if you can’t get your hands on your first choice, however, almost any of these wines will make a good investment—they’re that consistently good.
Collecting and Enjoying La Mouline, La Landonne, and La Turque
Guigal’s luscious La Las typically need at least a decade or more of cellaring to unlock their true potential. Some can still be enjoyed young if you allow for three or so hours of decanting. The aging potential of each is around 20 years for La Mouline, 25 years for La Turque, and 35 years for La Landonne (though especially good years may have the potential to age for much longer). Like most Guigal wines, these three labels are well worth investing in and will typically increase in value significantly over time should you choose to resell them.
As with any fine wine, storing Guigal’s La La wines properly is absolutely vital to preserving both their quality and value. Professional storage facilities are ideal for protecting these precious investments. And when the day comes that you choose to pour one of the Big Three, keep in mind that gamey meats like pheasant, partridge, or hare are ideal for bringing out these remarkable wines’ wilder sides.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s finest wine.