Marcel Guigal dropped out of high school at 17; his father, Etienne, had been stricken blind and needed someone to take over the family business—a small domaine and a struggling négociant house. It was 1961, and Marcel had to grow up fast. Making matters worse, his region, Côte-Rôtie in France's Northern Rhône Valley, had been declining for years, and local authorities were planning to build housing on some of the best hillside vineyards. A region prized since the Roman era was threatened with extinction.
Guigal refused to give up, and he worked relentlessly to achieve his goals. He led the effort to stop the housing development. He brought new attention to Côte-Rôtie by making serious wines that showed how elegant Syrah can be. He took new approaches, emulating Burgundy by producing single-vineyard wines; his La Mouline, La Landonne and La Turque have become icons for the region. In the 1970s, Guigal became an advocate for organic farming, urging his neighbors to abandon chemical herbicides.
Guigal put his profits in land, quadrupling the size of the family domaine in the late 1990s and early 2000s; he also expanded his négociant arm into the Southern Rhône. And he brought his son, Philippe, into the business early, making sure he would be ready for the day he takes over. Marcel Guigal has now made 55 vintages. His hard work has paid off in success for E. Guigal and in a renaissance for Côte-Rôtie and the greater Northern Rhône.
Watch our Philippe Guigal video