This story was updated on July 21.
E. Guigal, one of the largest and best-known négociants in France’s Rhône Valley and owner of some of the most coveted vineyards in Côte-Rôtie, has purchased the historic Domaine de Nalys in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The deal includes 124 acres of vineyards in the La Crau, Séneseau and Grand Pierre lieux-dits; the domaine has a large contiguous vineyard, which is relatively rare in the appellation. The sale price was not disclosed.
"We visited the Domaine de Nalys a little over a year ago," managing director Philippe Guigal told Wine Spectator. "For my father [Marcel] and myself, it was love at first sight." Although the Guigals have been bottling Châteauneuf-du-Papes since 1946 with purchased fruit, this acquisition makes them first-time proprietors in the Southern Rhône. "Of course, we are delighted to enter the south of the Rhône Valley by the biggest doors, that of Châteauneuf-du-Pape," said Guigal. The deal is the culmination of a decade-long search by Guigal for a Châteauneuf property.
Groupama, a French insurance conglomerate, had owned the domaine since 1976. When the Guigals visited, it was not officially for sale. Philippe notes that he knew the name and the wines, but had never visited. "We were amazed by the qualitative potential of the terroir," he said. The companies began a dialogue, and eventually agreed on a sale.
The team at Domaine de Nalys, spearheaded by Isabelle Ogier (herself from a notable family of Rhône winemakers), will remain, but Guigal says he will be very involved. "We are a family that is directly implicated in production, I am myself an enologist, and it's our job to be in the vines and make wine, so we certainly have ideas for the Domaine de Nalys," he said.
Guigal said that the domaine has a great reputation for its white wines, but he is convinced the terroir's potential for reds is substantial. Domaine de Nalys' wines have consistently scored very good to outstanding on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale. Guigal also believes that, although industry professionals are familiar with the estate, its wines have been relatively discreet on the market up until now. "We are lucky to have a great distribution at Maison Guigal, especially in the U.S., and it's logical that Domaine de Nalys can benefit in the future."
E. Guigal makes 670,000 cases of wine annually, whereas Domaine de Nalys makes around 16,000. The estate also makes the Kirkland Signature Cuvée de Nalys from Châteauneuf-du-Pape for Costco, which Guigal's team plans to continue making for the time being.