Ripe. Rich. Huge. Monstrous. But Elegant. Palate coating - teeth staining. What else would you expect from the famed Rhône Valley appellation Côte-Rôtie?
After all, it translates as "Roasted Slope." Unlike its southern neighbor Chateauneuf-du-Pape, wine from this region is nearly 100% Syrah - and I might add, this is the Syrah that defines Syrah.
The family estate of Guigal has defined Côte-Rôtie for many decades and is consistently the benchmark for all other winemakers in this region. They produce the three most revered and collectible bottlings of Syrah-based wine on the face of the earth: La Turque, La Landonne and La Mouline (collectively known as the "La-La" wines).
Guigal's "other" Côte-Rôtie, the Chateau d'Ampuis (dam-PWEE), is now just emerging from the shadows of its more famous siblings. This is good for us - its lower profile makes it a relative steal!
While the "La-La wines" typically sell for between $250 and $1000 a bottle, the d'Ampuis can be had for a fraction of the price. In great vintages such as 2001, d'Ampuis typically trails the critics' point scores of the "La-La" wines by a difference of only 5% but can be purchased for 70% less. That's the kind of QPR (quality-to-price ratio) that really turns me on. Yes - Chateau d'Ampuis is a "Classic Rock" star.
The 2001 Chateau d'Ampuis is a powerful yet beautifully elegant wine. Deep and dense with notes of chocolate, menthol, cherry and black fruit with a slight hint of road tar and a structured, super-long finish. This classic, traditionally-made wine is perfect for drinking now but could also take intermediate-term cellaring. I've enjoyed this wine on a number of occasions and since its release it has been a budget-minded go-to wine for me when I am thinking Syrah.
While the d'Ampuis is always a steal compared to its siblings, today I really want to do my part to "out" this gorgeous wine and put it in its rightful place in the Pantheon of Syrah.
Crush Wine & Spirits
2001 Guigal Côte-Rôtie Chateau d'Ampuis
< 2500 cases produced
One More Guigal
Stricter budgets may prefer Guigal Hermitage from the same source. This 27-year-old wine is fully mature but very much alive. This is an experience impossible to find outside of the opportunity to taste at the cellar door. Try one, you won't be disappointed.
1969 Guigal Hermitage
Instead of being from one single plot (like La Turque for instance), d'Ampuis is blended from six outstanding vineyards (Le Clos, La Garde, La Grande Plantée, La Pommière, Le Pavillon Rouge and Le Moulin) all in the most prime Côte-Rôtie real estate. Chateau d'Ampuis refers to the famous 12th century chateau that the family now uses to age its legendary wines.
Like the other crus, the d'Ampuis is subject to Guigal's fierce selection and standards. Only the best, ripest grapes are picked which come from vines that average an age of 50 years. After temperature-controlled stainless steel fermentation, the wine is aged for over 3 years in 100% new oak, bottled, and then held before release to the market.
Where in the World?
Côte-Rôtie is the Northernmost AOC in the department of Rhône just south of the commune of Vienne. Located on the western bank of the Rhône River about 25 miles south of Lyons, the town of Ampuis is considered the capital of the area.
While wine has been made for the last 2,000 years or so since viticulture was introduced by the Greeks or Romans (historians are still debating), the appellation of Côte-Rôtie wasn't established until 1940.
Wines from the AOC must be 100% Syrah with the exception of up to 20% of Viognier which may be included in a blend - it is generally used to add a floral aromatic component to Syrah's often bacon-like nose, though in small quantities, generally 5-10% or less. Today approximately 500-600 acres are under vine in the appellation.
There are two major hillsides in the region which are host to some of the best wine due to superior exposure and lower yields. These hills are the "Côte Blonde" and the "Côte Brune" which originated when, according to legend/history, a feudal lord of Ampuis, Maugiron, split the parcel of land in these two parts giving one half to his blonde-haired daughter and the other to his daughter who was a brunette.
The word "hills" is actually an understatement. As in many cases the gradient ranges between a precipitous 30-55� ... really only the Mosel in Germany compares in sheer vertical rise and difficulty of harvesting.
The Chateau d'Ampuis began, in fact, as a fort in the 12th century. It wasn't until the 16th century that it got a Renaissance facelift and became the family seat of the powerful Maugiron family. In its time, the chateau welcomed many a French King.
The fairytale continues with the Guigal family. Étienne Guigal showed up in this region of France in 1923 at the age of 14. Slowly working his way to the top, he became the cellar master for the powerful house of Vidal-Fleury (which the family now owns) before leaving in 1946 to found his own winemaking venture. As fate would have it, the woman �tienne eventually married at one time worked at Chateau d'Ampuis as a maid for an affluent family.
Sadly, Étienne died in 1988, not living long enough to see his son and grandson purchase this historical estate in 1995. Today the cellars beneath the chateau house the famed wines of Guigal (more Kings in the chateau!) and the chateau itself serves also as a cooperage, building roughly 500 new barrels a year for the estate's wines.