Inspired by a recent tasting of Guigal 1979 Cotes du Rhone, a humble blend from the south of France, still flaunting its charms in November 2020. To prevent any misleading comparisons, Guigal Hermitage is a shiraz from the northern end of the Rhone Valley, responsible for wines of sublime quality. The Rhone doesn’t have a Grand Cru or Growth Classification system, content to rely on the place first and foremost.

Professor George Saintsbury, a famed English scholar of the latter part of the 19th century, described an 1864 Hermitage as ‘the manliest wine I have ever tasted’. It also gained fame with Chateau Margaux overprinting its label ‘Hermitage’ and charging more for it when the sun-drenched Rhone came to the rescue of a dismal rain-drained Bordeaux vintage. This 1998 Guigal Hermitage is still in the full flush of youth. It’s elegant, medium-bodied, perfectly balanced and jubilantly long on its finish and aftertaste, where sibilant tannins are sewn through red and black cherry fruit of extraordinary varietal purity.

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