From €7.99, £9.95, 10.90 Swiss francs, $12.99, 4,790 Hungarian forint, 630 Taiwan dollars
What did you get for Christmas? Hungover? Argumentative? Hysterical? Then you need something guaranteed to put things right, to give you the bottled equivalent of a nice warm cuddle, and Guigal's red Côtes du Rhône does exactly that. It's the Holy Trinity of wine: crowd-pleasing, widely available and superb value. (In fact, when the 2009 vintage was featured as a wine of the week by Jancis five years ago, it cost exactly the same price, in the UK at least: £9.95 per bottle.)
When I was a manager of Majestic Wine in the 2000s, Guigal's Côtes du Rhône was the wine I always opened for new staff on their first day. It's perfect for the neophyte: relatively pronounceable, reasonably affordable and absolutely delicious. It has generous primary fruit, medium body and rounded texture. Yet it offers plenty to delight the vinous veteran too: genuine complexity on the nose, accurate varietal characteristics and a tangible sense of place.
Tasting the 2014 vintage twice this year, I was delighted to find it is just as good as ever. The first encounter was chez Guigal in Ampuis two months ago while preparing my comprehensive Rhône 2016 report, then again at home just before Christmas. Both times, I was struck by just how elaborate and generous the aromas were, with tobacco and black pepper (the varietal characteristics) alongside rich, generous fruit and herbal notes (the sense of place).
The acidity is more refreshing than most generic Rhône wines, thanks to the high proportion of Syrah, and while the tannins are pleasingly firm and traditional, it is 100% drinkable now. (I see that Jancis also enjoyed a pre-release version in 2015, and estimated a drinking window of 2017 to 2021.) This must surely be one of the most reliable large-scale wines in existence.
Indeed, two million bottles of this vintage were made, sourced from grapes grown by 300 different growers (all located in the southern Rhône, incidentally). The blend is 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 10% Mourvèdre and it spends 18 months in oak before bottling.
Such a reliable, affordable and outright delicious wine should be made available to every wine drinker (Guigalitarianism?), so it is fortunate that the wine is well-distributed and affordable enough to find quite easily: in the UK, for example, it is stocked by both The Wine Society and Waitrose.
So, wherever you are in the world, I wish that your 2018 may be as reliable and enjoyable and fulfilling as Guigal's red Côtes du Rhône 2014. Happy New Year!