100 Most Iconic Wine Estates:
Rhone and Provence

Georges Vernay Condrieu
This Condrieu specialist estate covers 7.5ha making it one of the three most important in the region. Run by George’s daughter Christine and her husband Paul Ansellem they also make a small amount of beautiful Côte-Rôtie and Saint-Joseph, too. Their three distinct Condrieu cuvées are some of the most evocative expressions of the Viognier grape in the world. Coteau de Vernon comes from 60 year old vines and is a model Viognier with an exquisite and sleek chassis. Les Chaillées de l’Enfer os a warmer site and the wines are more intense and heady with fig and nougat tones.
Les Terrassess de l’Empire is the most forward and slim-line of the cuvées with a curvy but pliable body and precocious charm. You can also experience a Viognier, made by Christine, from the Collines Rhodaniennes, above the Condrieu appellation, called Le Pied de Samson – at half the price of L’Empire and the third of Vernon it is a wine worth tracking down.
Alain Graillot Crozes Hermitage
Since Alain Graillot’s very first vintage of Crozes-Hermitage in 1985, the wines remain to have incredible white pepper, iodine tapenade and blackcurrant notes on the nose and palate. These are very special wines indeed and if you create crave top-flight Northern Rhône Sarah but don’t want to wait and eternity for Hermitage, Cornas or Côte-Rôtie to mature then head to this Domaine immediately. Drinking perfectly from three years old these are insanely delicious wines. Keep your eyes peeled for Graillot’s ‘super-cuvée’ La Guiraude which is a barrel selection made on top vintages – it is sublime.
E. Guigal Cote Rotie
Many peoples first introduction to the famous Guigal name is via the terrifically reliable Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône. This ‘one-wine messaging service’ has communicated the family name faster and wider, and has had more impact than any television or billboard advertisement, on the world’s most faithful wine-loving public. Yet as delicious as this wine is, it is only the tip of the Guigal iceberg and further investigation yield some extraordinary flavours, aromas and many unforgettable memories. Etienne Guigal started his career at Vidal-Fleury in 1924, at the age of 14, and he founded his own company in 1946, in Ampuis, a small, ancient village in the Côte-Rôtie appellation of the northern Rhône. A diligent and fastidious worker, Etienne was suddenly struck with blindness and in 1961 his young son Marcel took control of the family business. Today the third generation of the family, Philippe, is the winemaker at Guigal. We can be assured that this dynasty, albeit a fairly short one for European standards, will be here for a very long time to come.
Guigal is known as the most famous producer of Côte-Rôtie, making over 40% of the wines from this mighty appellation. A great landmark for Guigal was the purchase of the famous Château d’Ampuis, in 1995, and it is now the Guigal HQ. This beautiful 12th century fort was renovated in the 16th century into a stunning Renaissance castle, situated on the banks of the Rhône. Having fallen into disrepair, the Guigals have completely renovated this vinous landmark.
Making a large range of wines from the Southern and Northern Rhône , under both Domaine and Négociant labels, Guigal vinifies and ages all of his cuvées in a 3ha winery and cellars in Ampuis. The stroke of genius which propelled Guigal to the highest echelon of world winemaking was his decision to vilify some of his Côte-Rôtie wines as single vineyard offerings. This ‘Burgundian’ mentality was revolutionary and the world’s collectors collectively sat up and paid attention. Guigal makes three single vineyard Côte-Roties – La Landonne, La Mouline and La Turque, affectionally known as the ‘LaLas’. They are some of the most expensive and rare wines made from Syrah (and Viognier) on the planet.
In short, Marcel Guigal single-handedly elevated the status of Côtie-Rôtie to that of the other Northern Rhône superstar appellation, Hermitage. Concentrating on low yields, organic viticulture and, curiously, maturing the wines for a very long time in new oak barrels (up to three and a half years) these wines are nothing short of hypnotic La Landonne was the first produced in 1978 and there are around 10,000 bottles made each year. It is the only 100% Syrah wine and it comes from within the Côte Brune ‘lieu-dit’. Usually the most backward of the three, you shouldn’t think about drinking a bottle until after its 15th birthday. La Mouline comes from a single parcel inside the ‘lieu-dit’ of Côte Blonde. The first vintage was 1966 and some 5000 bottles are made each year. This is often the most aromatic of the three on account of the large amount (10-11%) of the perfumed white grape Viognier used in the blend. La Turque also uses Viognier in the mix, but a lower percentage this time, and it comes from a plot in the Côte Brune. Its first vintage was 1985 and around 5000 bottles are produced. Style-wise it sits somewhere between La Mouline and La Landonne depending on the vintage.
Château d’Appuis cuvée was launched with the 1985 vintage and it sits below these three superstars. It is made from a blend of Côte Brune and Côte Blonde fruit and there is always a Viognier element involved, typically around 7%. The most widely available cuvée is Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde de Guigal, a ‘négociant’ wine, which manages to harness the uniqueness of the setting but also drinks a lot earlier than its loftier stable-mates. Guigal also has a major stake in the dreamy Viognier wines of the neighbouring appellation, Condrieu.
We must all raise our glasses to Guigal and their wines – it is not often that one family transforms an entire wine region with their passion and commitment. They are true wine heroes.
Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage
Chave is a devastatingly serious producer of Hermitage. With 25 to 30 years in the engine for these exceptional wines there is no hurry to find a corkscrew and you mustn’t let impatience get the better of you because the difference between a young Chave Hermitage and a mature one is stark. Coming from several different plots on the farmed hillside this is one of the most elemental and inspirational wines made from the Syrah variety. Without the use of new oak found in many other estates’ wines, the fruit moves slowly and with monumental determination. The prize is one of the most blissful flavours that your olfactory system could ever hope to process. That is, until you taste the Chafe’s white Hermitage. This is a wine that I put on the same plane as Haut-Brion Blanc and only a handful of Grand Cru white Burgundies – it is really that good. So why not get one of each? With a Saint-Joseph in the portfolio and a thoroughly worthy ‘négociant’ arm this is a busy and brilliantly reliable producer.
Auguste Clape Cornas
Auguste, Pierre & Oliver Clape own five hectares of Syrah vines in Cornas, on the west bank of the mighty Rhône river, just about Saint Péray. It would not be an overstatement to say that the wines from this little estate are some of the most captivating of the world.
M. Chapoutier Tain-l’Hermitage
The Chapoutier family has been making wine in the Rhône Valley since 1808. Max Chapoutier retired in 1977 leaving his sons Michel and Marc to run the business and in the ‘80s their wines started to attract a lot of attention, appealing to a curious, fast-moving international market. They did what a lot of French producers didn’t – they relentlessly toured the world opening incredible bottles for their fans. This worked a treat and when the heady combination of haute cuisine and Chapoutier wines hit town everyone wanted an invitation.
The upward trajectory continued apace when Michel Chapoutier took over from the reins of the company in 1990 and from this moment, the wines is not only gathered more favourable reviews but also, they started to sing truly about their precise origins. Part of this is likely due to Michel moving from being a fan of organic viticulture to a fervent advocate for farming biodynamically. The spiritual and cosmic vinous awareness allows each parcel of land to perform at its finely tuned best, and the resulting should put a wine span definition and clarity as well as more obvious, impressive fruit flavours. The Chapoutier braille wine labels have been around since 1996. Maurice Monier de la Sizeranne, owner of the plot of the Hermitage La Sizeranne, which Chapoutier makes, invented the first version of abbreviated Braille. Chapoutier’s labels pay tribute to him and also, uniquely, allow visually-impaired wine lovers to locate their favourite cuvées.
Chapoutier has enviably extensive vineyard holdings in the prime road appellations as well as making a handful of stunning, inexpensive wines in the greater Rhône areas of Luberon, Tricastin and Ardèche. Michel even ventures outside of the Rhône to Roussillon (Domaine Bila-Haut), Alsace, Australia and Portugal.
The Chapoutier HQ is in Tain-l’Hermitage and from here he conducts a mighty orchestra of labels. At the very top of the pile are his so-called ‘Sélections Parcellaires’. These are the wines that attract the most attention and it is easy to taste why. All of these are site-specific creations and pure varietals – so there is no Viognier in the Côte-Rôtie, Roussane in the white Ermitage or Syrah in the Châteauneuf!
These are some of the most shocking and memorable wines in the world and it is this mighty backbone which supports the rest of the business. His choice to delineate and non-blending attitude allows us to focus on the fruit expression and the exact GPS coordinates of the vineyards which, by definition, are totally and utterly unique. It is a thrilling experience. Below these great wines is a series entitled ‘Prestige’ and these are made from his own fruit supplemented by bought parcels. It is these wines that are most visible on the market and they are restaurant favourites, too, being relatively forward and faithful to the time-honoured flavours associated with their names.
It is remarkable that Michel Chapoutier has created a multi-tiered empire with such amazing quality and integrity across the board. It is rare to see such commitment to all sectors of the wine-adoring public and he is to be applauded for his unwavering ambition.
Vieux Télégraphe Chateauneuf du Pape
View Télégraphe is one of the most famous and revered estates in the Southern Rhône. It takes its name from an old telegraph station which stood on the property. In 1792 Claude Chappe designed a series of optical relay towers which used semaphore and binoculars to transmit news across the country. This was the fist practical telecommunications system of the industrial age. Sadly, the tower has been demolished, but the special patch of land on which it stood, called the Plateau de la Crau, has been home to some very special vines since 1898 when Hippolyte Prunier established Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe.
A large property, with 65 ha of red vines and 5 ha of whites all planted on the crown, this is one of the finest tracts of land in the region, benefiting from a particularly hot microclimate. It is here that the large smooth potato stones are found in the vineyards. These hot stones warm up in the sunshine during the day then slowly release the heat into the soil at night. This geological peculiarity encourages richness and nobility in the wines. With a decent clutch of old vines, up to 65 years old, and a rolling average of fines well over 35 years old, there is a state is perfectly balanced and the winds reflect this in the glass.
View Télégraphe’s blend is the model for all classic Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, with Grenache accounting for around two thirds of the mix, and the rest being made up of Syrah and Mourvedré with a tiny dribble of Cinsault for good measure. Only for wine is made at this estate – two reds and two whites. View Télégraphe red and white are made from the oldest vines and are the flagships, while red and white Le Télégramme is M. Prunier’s second label.
It is important to stress that this estate has eschewed the fashions that come and go in the wine world. He is a firm believer in not over-oaking his wines and making the very best estate wine possible, rather than slicing up his property into little chunks which would inevitably detract from the overall excellence of the main estate wine. Well this is meant that he has avoided the spot like that often falls on the extrovert or attention seeking produces, it has however made him a beacon of excellence for classicists, who adore the heavenly purity, drive and authenticity of his wines.
It is thrilling to bring to your attention of wine which delivers its message concisely and with magnificent clarity, just like at 1792 namesake.
Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape
Arguably the most famous estate in the region, the Perrin family has made a concerted push to further heighten in the appeal of its flagship Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine of late, and the results are amazing. From Coudoulet, the ‘second’ wine which trumps most producers Grand Vins, to the earthy meaty Châteauneuf-du-Pape itself these are wines which use the full template of the 13 varieties to great effect. The whites made at Beaucastel are also exceptional with the Roussanne Vielles Vignes coming from a plot of vines planted in 1909. This is a truly great cuvée and one which should be drunk alongside stellar Chardonnays to compare and contrast the dramatic flavours. Finally there is the Homage à Jacques Perrin, only made in top vintages. With a large dose of Mourvèdre and made in tiny quantities, this is an icon well worth tasting for its unique palette and sensational texture.
Tempier Bandol
Owned by the Tempier family since 1834 this is a favourite producer of the Provence star red wine, Bandol. The white and rose are delectable wines but the real excitement is found in the unequalled portfolio of reds. Cuvée Classique is the starting point and this benchmark of Mourvèdre-dominant red with smattering of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan thrown in for good measure. An early-drinking, romantic and evocative wine, this is the base on which other heroic wine stand. La Migoua is an amphitheatre-shaped 6ha vineyard which makes wine with only 50% Mourvèdre and more Cinsault and Grenache in the mix. It’s an earthly animal-centred creature for rich pagan stews and game. La Tourtine is a Mourvèdre-dominant wine with a pronounced red fruit nose, more perfume and dextrous flashes of stylish leather and spice. It is a favourite cuvée for all-round pleasure. The final wine is Cabassaou, with a very low yields and a monstrous 95% Mourvèdre. This inky, age-worthy wine is the standard bearer for the estate and it is a magnificent and daunting creature.
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