Quite a few years ago Matt Whitman and I attended VINEXPO in New York and while we were going around tasting we entered the Guigal pavilion to taste what they were pouring that week. When we first entered there were a couple of younger people pouring the wines and they were moving slowly, it seemed that little progress was being made to move the crowd through the wines. We were slowly making our way to the front of the crowd and then in a flurry of activity Marcel and Philippe Guigal entered the booth dismissing the two pourers and taking over. Matt and I wound up at the right end of the table, eye-to-eye with Philippe. He was so generous with us, teaching us about each wine in great detail, he didn’t waste time, but he never rushed us, we had all of the time we needed to take great notes and ask any questions that came up. And I have been forever grateful for that tasting with Philippe, this is one of my fondest memories in the wine trade, because the wines were also tremendous, a masterclass indeed! I have met Philippe a few more times over the years, most recently last week as he is touring to show off Chateau de Nalys, a venerable old Chateauneuf vineyard and winery that the Guigal’s bought in 2017, the first land the Guigals own in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The very first releases are entering the market.
Chateau de Nalys is a 150 acre property not far from the great ruins of the Popes’ Chateau. The Land is divided into 3 parcels, 50acres in La Crau with it’s large stones or “galets”, 50 acres in Bois Senechal which also has galets, but with a clay subsoil and the 50 acres around the winery, commonly referred to as Nalys, this is sand and clay with limestone underneath. Also while the wines of the Rhone Valley are 94% red, and just 6% white, Nalys has a whopping 18% of their land planted to white grapes. So yes they make quite a bit of white, but its important to understand that they make quite a bit of REALLY GOOD white. The Grand Vin Blanc is among the highest rated white Chateauneufs, and honestly both of these should be taken very seriously. On the red side the wines deliver a better wine than the regular Guigal Chateauneuf, which is by all accounts a serviceable wine, even Philippe talked abut the great difference in style between the two missions, Guigal for drinking, Nalys for a deeper more terroir-driven expression of CdP.
Saintes Pierres de Nalys Chateauneuf -du-Pape Blanc 2017- $ 49.99 Just before tasting this wine Philippe poured his Condrieu and so this had quite an act to follow. It was up for it, what an aroma- white truffle, mineral, tart apple and very pretty subtle white flowers. The mouth is full and rich with terrific balance and a mouthwatering finish, this bright unoaked white wears its alcohol well and finishes clean. It’s a very fun wine for the Spring and Summer. “an interesting marriage of linear notes of crushed stone and lime with rounder, riper notes of melon and tangerine. Medium to full-bodied, there’s a chalky-mineral-tonic feel on the palate that keeps it lively through the fresh, clean finish. 91 points.” Wine Advocate
Chateau de Nalys Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc “Grand Vin” 2017- $99.99– Now we get to the Grand Vin, 43%Roussanne, with a touch of oak this has a layer of sophistication that the Saintes Pierres doesn’t quite have. Very attractive nose, lemon, cream and floral with very zippy white peach. Pick only one word to describe this wine? Graceful- lots of flavor and acidity and full-bodied, but the balance and grace of the wine keep it all together. The oak provides a spectacular frame for the wine to show off. Available in 6-packs. “70 percent of the blend aged in oak, but I’d say that component is discrete, adding just a hint of pencil shavings and a fine-grained, silky texture. It’s full-bodied and succulent, delivering an attractive combination of pineapple and saline notes with understated elegance. 93 points” Wine Advocate
Saintes Pierres de Nalys Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2016- $49.99 Tight and wound up, this wine took quite a bit of coaxing to get it to show. Bright and floral with plum and red cherries, less spicy than the Guigal Chateauneuf we tasted before it, but more fruit and acid, a real charmer here once it opens up. A great example of a wine with elegance on its mind, with a decanter this could be enjoyed today. “an attractive, full-bodied wine that delivers ripe cherries, a hint of stone fruit and very supple tannins. It’s a bit too easy to think it will be a long-term cellar candidate, but it’s a ripe, juicy mouthful of fruit to drink over the next 6-7 years. 92 points.” Wine Advocate
Chateau de Nalys Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge “Grand Vin” 2016 – $99.99 About half of this cuvee comes from La Crua, which gives the wine the intense structure we expect from age-worthy Chateauneuf. An absolute show-stopper of a wine. Gorgeous deep purple color, pretty. A touch of oak in the nose gives richness to the raspberry jam and matchstick. Young and a bit tight, opened with swirling to reveal garrigue and spice, very well-balanced and terrific. Simply put this is spectacular wine. Available in 6-packs. “Destined to become Nalys’s new flagship…It’s full-bodied and velvety, offering hints of vanilla and sandalwood, but there also are layers of dark cherry fruit. Subtle notes of cinnamon, clove and allspice add interest to the long, silky finish. It’s an auspicious debut for the Guigal team. 95 points.” Wine Advocate