from Southern Rhone…

Maison Guigal comes to mind as one of the top producers of the Rhone Valley. You might be surprised that Guigal is only three generations young; having been incorporated in 1946. Grapes had been cultivated in the Rhone Valley for more than 2000 years!

That said, Guigal’s wines are undisputed for delivering quality at all levels. At blind tastings I am amazed when Guigal Cotes du Rhone ‘performs’ as well as wines going for almost twice the price.

What about wines from the Rhone Valley’s other appellations? Guigal has them too – from Condrieu, St. Joseph and Crozes Hermitage to Gigondas, Tavel and Chateauneuf du Pape. And then there’s more – the Ermitage, the Brune et Blonde and the Guigal Ampuis – blended wines of various terroirs. Also some of the world’s most collectible wines are Guigal’s La La’s (La Turque, La Landonne and La Mouline).

The Guigals have always been producing in the Rhone Valley. I look back at my notes from the late nineties and recall their purchase of Chateau Ampuis – which has become their icon chateau in Northern Rhone. Depicted on the Guigal brochure, “Chateau Ampuis” evokes the fairy tale history and romance of the distinguished Cote Rotie wines. The wine, which I tasted, lived up to the promise.

I had not kept up with the evolution of the Guigal business but learnt lately that since the nineties, they have added other estates. They are the domains of de Grippat (St. Joseph), de Vallouit (Hermitage), and de Bonserine (Condrieu and Cote Rotie wines).

Last week, the wines of Chateau de Nalys were shown in Singapore. Chateau de Nalys in the Chateauneuf du Pape appellation is Maison Guigal’s latest acquisition (in 2017). Although Guigal offers Chateauneuf du Pape wines under the E. Guigal collection of wines, the Chateau de Nalys will represent wines of an exceptional terroir in the Chateauneuf du Pape appellation.

Here are my tasting notes.

St. Pierres de Nalys, Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc 2017 – Pale gold, citrus, soursop and stone fruit aromas, chalky acidity, quite big and with a long finish. (mostly Clairette, Bourboulenc and Grenache Blanc grapes)

Chateau de Nalys, Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc 2017 Grand Vin – Yellow gold, ripe citrus and tropical fruit including rambutan and sweet mangosteens, with a hint of creme patisserie. Rich yet beautifully balanced. (Rousanne, Grenache Blanc and some Clairette and other grapes).

St. Pierres de Nalys, Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge 2016 – Dark red. Beautiful bouquet of small red fruit and some black fruit. (Grenache and some Syrah with a little Cinsault, and other grapes)

Chateau de Nalys, Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge 2016 Grand Vin – Dense dark red. Small ripe red fruit including sour cherries, some dark fruit, plums and five spice. Soft medium grained tannins with the texture of cotton. Long finish and totally sophisticated in presentation. (Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre and a little Counoise and Vaccarese).

The wines are approachable now, being quite tasty with moderate tannins but lay these wines down (especially the Grand Vins) and you will be rewarded. Chateau de Nalys is destined to be the Maison Guigal’s icon estate in the of Chateauneuf du Pape.

Delicious Barbaresco – Dante Rivetti Bric’Micca, 2007

The Piedmonte wine cognoscenti aren’t going to like me sharing this excellent value wine. For less than S$100 you get an amazingly complex and delightfully mid-aged Barbaresco that delivers all that you wish for in this wine style. There’s cherries, there’s small red and black fruit, Chinese plums, hawthorn, hints of Yunan ham and leather; fine structured tannins and a juicy balanced long finish. My other two favourite Barbarescos are from Gaja and Bruno Giacosa – and you know how much those wines cost!

Bric’Micca is grown on sandy-limestone soils, and made in the modern-traditional style with ageing in large Slavonian oak and small French wood.

You can get this wine from Wine Concierge APAC Pte Ltd.

Orin Swift

Wine, and art, go together. Go to any ‘vernissage’ (French term for preview of an art exhibition) and guests will be cradling a glass of wine whilst they take in the visual feast. Wineries that feature art aren’t uncommon. And art on wine labels – well, there are quite a few examples. Mouton Rothschild’s depiction on its label, of one great artist’s work every vintage – from Picasso to Gu Gan, comes to mind immediately.

A new entrant to wine is David Phinney, a would be lawyer who, after an epiphany in Italy, decided he wished to make wine in California. His wine labels feature art. They are unconventional, or if you were the slightly inhibited, you might deem the art work as bizarre. The fact is, Phinney’s labels are memorable (marketers strive to make their labels stand out so that consumers can remember the wine, especially when the wine sits on a shelf in a sea of other wines). Not only that, Phinney’s wine is quite good!

Phinney has chosen Orin Swift as the name of his brand. And wines go by the names of Machete, Mercury Head, China Doll, Blank Stare, Mute, Papillon, Trigger Finger, etc.

From a wine point of view – the wines stand on their own. Here are some tasting notes

Mannequin Chardonnay – Fresh ripe lemon, stone fruit and Madagascar vanilla, smooth velvety textured in the mouth, firm finish with some soft acids, lightly warm with hazelnuts and very long. Would you hug this mannequin?

Palermo Cabernet Sauvignon – Lots of dark fruit and small red fruit too. Herbs and spice nicely incorporated with very smooth tannins but still with the typical Cab power and weight. Does it bring back memories of my visit to Palermo? …. perhaps.

Slander Pinot Noir – Elegant with all the aromas of a fine pinot made from ripe fruit. Some florals, and sesame. Lovely smooth tannins.