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E Guigal, La Mouline 1969 is a legend because…

Marcel Guigal has long been renowned for his magnificent trio of single-vineyard Côte-Rôtie wines: La Mouline, La Landonne and La Turque. La Mouline was the first, its debut vintage being 1966, just five years after he took the helm at the family domaine. It was followed by La Landonne in 1978 and La Turque in 1985. La Mouline was acquired in 1965, and as it was already planted with some very old vines, he was able to make the wine from 1966. The wine also attracted attention because it was aged in mostly new French oak, for 42 months. Such a method was almost unheard of in a region where Côte-Rôtie at that time was still aged mostly or entirely in large old casks (foudres) or even in chestnut barrels.

Looking back

La Mouline had been the property of the Dervieux family and was already a celebrated site before its purchase by Guigal. It also contained a proportion of Viognier, which was gradually increased to its present level of about 11%. This was not a formulaic approach on the part of Guigal – La Landonne, for example, is pure Syrah. The aim was to produce a wine of exceptional elegance, in contrast to the denser, more powerful style of La Landonne. The early vintages of the single-vineyard wines were directed primarily at the wine lists of the many superb restaurants in the Rhône, but their quality was swiftly recognised and their fame and thus distribution spread.

The vintage

1969 produced a small crop in Côte-Rôtie, but quality was exceptional. This combination of meagre quality with tremendous quality was reminiscent of the even more celebrated 1961 vintage.

The terroir

The vines at La Mouline are on average about 70 years old, although some plants from 1893 still survive. They are grown on soil within the sector of Côte-Rôtie known as the Côte Blonde. Here there is a higher limestone content than in most other sites, although the primary soil types are still gneiss and granite. The 1.5-hectare site is entirely owned by Guigal, unlike La Landonne which has a number of different owners. Guigal has always been a late harvester, aiming for maximum concentration, although never risking overripeness. But, with its southerly exposition in a kind of amphitheatre, La Mouline is a precocious vineyard, and its grapes are picked before most of Guigal’s other top sites.

The wine

On arrival at the winery in Ampuis, the grapes are crushed and destemmed, and fermented at relatively high temperatures, with pumpovers but no punching down of the cap, as Guigal does not want to extract too much tannin. Vinification of the three single-vineyard wines varies, being adapted to the nature and quality of the fruit. From the start La Mouline was aged entirely in new oak, and reports that the 1969 was partly aged in older casks are erroneous. The racking of the wine varies according to the vintage, but the wine is neither fined nor filtered.

The reaction

Decanter’s John Livingstone-Learmonth had a few reservations in 1997: ‘Bouquet rather precarious – ripe fruits, though dusty, dry top notes – and is dense, a little volatile. Warmth and roundness on the palate, chocolate-style flavours. Dense wine, but is a little edgy now. Rather forced black cherries on the finish. Soft sweetness throughout.’

The facts

Bottles produced 4,800
Composition 89% Syrah, 11% Viognier
Average yield 35hl/ha
Alcohol 13.5%
Release price N/A
Price today £3,960