Saint-Joseph Lieu Dit Blanc 2019
Guigal’s Saint-Joseph Lieu Dit Blanc comes from the vineyard that gives the Saint-Joseph appellation its name, and is one of the finest sites in the Northern Rhone Valley. Made in minuscule quantities, the Lieu Dit Blanc is one of the most original and distinctive whites in the Rhone.
Guigal believes, as do a number of top producers working in the area, that Saint-Joseph will be one of the great stories in the next few decades, reaching the renown it received several hundred years ago. Saint-Joseph Blanc is a serious wine, with weight and complexity, and is deeply reflective of its vineyard sites. A seamless balance of freshness and fruitiness, pleasure and interest, and flavors and structure. Guigal’s specialty in whites is especially evident in this wine.
This Saint Joseph Lieu Dit Blanc is comprised of fruit from the exceptional Lieu Dit vineyard previously owned by Domaine J. L. Grippat (purchased in 2000). Vines average in age from 20 up to 75 years, and are planted on steep slopes of Gneiss with granite. The white grapes are more specifically planted to 95% Marsanne and 5% Roussanne.
How Guigal came to own these vineyards needs its own chapter, but we will try to summarize. In short, the Guigals for years wanted to purchase land in Hermitage. Jean-Louis Grippat, considered the best producer in Saint Joseph at the time, had no heirs interested in taking over his family business, and told the Guigals he was going to sell his vineyards, including land he owned in Hermitage. The catch was that the sale was all or nothing; he would not parcel out his vineyard holdings.
Marcel and Philippe drove the 45 minutes down to Saint-Joseph from Côte-Rôtie, and somberly discussed in the car how they would have to explain to Jean-Louis that they were not interested. It was not something they could do over the phone, hence the drive. When they arrived, rather than sitting down for a discussion, Jean-Louis took them right to his Saint-Joseph vineyards. Though they live only 45 minutes north, the Guigals had never seen the region through the eyes of one of its top producers, and never walked vineyards of this quality. They fell in love, and made the purchase.
Fermentation is in stainless steel, with a slow pressing allowing the wine to stay on its skins. Aging is in a combination of new (50%) and second use (50%) barrels, all coopered by Guigal at Château d’Ampuis.
2019 looks to be a nearly perfect vintage in the Northern Rhône. Following a cool spring, flowering was normal, setting a normal crop – a relief after two short harvests. Hail impacted Crozes Hermitage, but vineyards across the river in Mauves were not affected. July was the hottest on record in the Rhône, but August brought some welcome rain leading into a warm and even September with perfect harvest conditions. Guigal harvested their Saint Joseph whites on September 11th and 12th, bringing in supremely concentrated fruit with excellent acidity. The 2019 Saint-Joseph Lieu Dit Blanc is rich and well-structured with a veneer of new oak framing superbly concentrated flavors of quince, peach pit, and lanolin. 2019 is clearly the finest vintage for this wine to date.
Straw yellow with golden tints. Very complex nose with hazelnuts, yellow fruit and oak accents. Full-bodied attack, with fleshy fruit and a round palate. Balanced with complex aromas and the roundness characteristic of the best sites of the appellation.
For nearly 4 decades Guigal has used only environmentally sustainable methods of pest, disease and weed control. They work to conserve biological diversity, water resources, soils and ecosystems on their land. Packaging materials are recyclable or biodegradable. Lastly, they are committed to achieving a zero waste target.
Suggested Retail Price
Jeb Dunnuck - "Another incredible wine, the 2019 Saint Joseph Lieu-Dit Saint Joseph Blanc boasts a vivid gold hue as well as incredible notes of quince, white currants, toasted almonds, brioche, and a liquid rock-like minerality. Rich, full-bodied, and opulent on the palate, it has a wonderful sense of minerality, a seamless, multi-dimensional texture, and a blockbuster of a finish. This is the finest example of this cuvée I've tasted (and I've had them all)."
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Given that this particular wine can be the introduction to the entire Rhône Valley for a drinker, as well as the position they occupy in the Rhône, it is not enough for the Guigals to make a good Côtes du Rhône. They are relentlessly driven to produce a distinctive and outstanding wine that drives interest in exploring the entirety of the Rhône.
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Whites make up a small percentage of production in the Rhône, under 2%, but white wines are a little bit of a secret specialty at Guigal and today comprise 25% of their production. And for good reason, as the whites of the Northern Rhône are true discovery wines, immensely appealing and complex. They specifically display an expressiveness and brightness while also capturing the warmth of the area. Even more of a discovery is Hermitage Blanc, one of the least-known yet most intriguing wines of the Rhône Valley and in the small 309 acre Hermitage AOC.