Desert Island Wines with Philippe Guittard, Head of Purchasing
21 January 2022
We sat down with Philippe Guittard, Head of Purchasing here at Bordeaux Index. We cast him off to a desert island with only five wines of his choice. Discover which five he chose to take with him and why.
As Head of Purchasing at Bordeaux Index with a history in the industry, you clearly have a passion for wine, when did this first start? Can you remember your first experience with wine?
I grew up in a small town in Languedoc surrounded by vines, wine was part of my everyday life! Although my parents did not work in the wine business, they do like wine and, living in France, it’s part of our culture. I was fortunate to have the chance to experience wine early on in my life and the reason I started working in the wine business was thanks to one of my parent’s friend who was passionate about Bordeaux. When my parent’s friend came over, I had the chance to taste some very good wines including first growth Bordeaux. One of my earliest memories of an exceptional wine was 1975 Margaux, I was in my late teens, probably 18/19 years old when I tasted it, it was a real eye opener for me as to how good wine could be. I have also been lucky enough to drink many great Rhônes as part of my early wine education, in particular Chapoutier.
How do you think you would fare being cast away on a desert island?
I think I would be alright, I grew up in a small town and love being outdoors. In all honesty, I try to escape London and spend more time in the countryside - I visit wine regions whenever I can, I love it!
Say we cast you away to a wine region rather than a desert island, if you could choose one wine region to be stuck on which would it be and why?
It would have to be Burgundy, I absolutely love Burgundy. It is such an interesting region and you can learn so much, the fun of Burgundy is its complexity and diversity. It is incredible how they make so many different styles of wines from just two grapes – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I have such admiration for the people that work in the vineyards, it really is hard work. Although it is very interesting and fun, it is also extremely stressful watching the harvest and hoping that the weather is good to you and your crop. Trying to make a very good wine and sell it is incredibly hard work.
You are being cast away to a desert island and you are only allowed to take 5 bottles of your choice with you. We would like to know which 5 wines you have selected and why. This could be because they bring back fond and loving memories for you, it could mark a significant milestone in your life or it could simply be down to the incredible taste of a wine that you just can not bear the thought of never drinking again. We won’t be giving any more details as to the desert island, it is up to your imagination but it is important for you to know that it will be just you and your wines. It’s time to hear your choices and we are very excited to hear which special bottles you have selected to take with you.
Let’s start with bottle number 1, could you tell us which bottle you have chosen and why?
I have chosen Bollinger VVF 1996 as my first choice. It is a fantastic wine and I was lucky enough to have the chance to taste this in my very first job after I finished my studies. I was working in a big wine store in Paris and they had a wine bar. I would sell wine in the store, work as a sommelier and also have the opportunity to taste some of the wines. It was very early on in my career and I had a lot to learn, taste and discover. The Bollinger VVF 1996 really sticks in my mind, it was a great wine. I was very impressed, and I only had a few sips. When I tasted it, it was a baby, and this wine could age for 30 years, I was amazed at its power, depth and complexity. It was one of those experiences where you realise how incredible a wine can be. I have not tasted it since, bottles of 96 are now extremely rare and expensive!
If we could move on to number 2, what is your second choice?
My next choice is Philipponnat Clos de Goisses 1976 in magnum. This is another wine where you just can not believe how good it is when you drink it. This came much later on in my career, probably about four years ago. I was at a dinner with Charles Philipponnat in London, it was a private dinner serving several vintages of Philipponnat Clos de Goisses. This wine was the highlight, 1976 was an exceptional vintage in Champagne, it was a very hot year. I haven’t had the chance to taste many 1976 Champagnes, so that is one of the best I could ever have dreamed to taste. The fact that it was in magnum and coming directly from the Domaine made it even more special.
It’s time for choice number 3, tell us Philippe which is your third choice and what memory does this bottle conjure up for you?
This bottle is a Northern Rhône from Jean Louis Chave: his 1988 Hermitage white. It is the 1988 white, I love the reds of course but I love his whites just as much. I tasted it a couple of years ago in London at a tasting with Jean Louis himself. He was doing a masterclass, and I was honoured to meet him, he is a living legend. We went through a range of his Hermitage red and white. The highlight for me was this 1988 Hermitage white, it was very interesting because you often drink Hermitage whites quite young but you don’t often get the chance to taste them with a fair bit of age, so this was a very rare occasion for me. These whites are amazing young, they are super expressive and spectacular, but they age very well. They have the structure to last for a very long time and as Jean Louis was explaining us, they change in flavour profile, the best ones never feel old.
Moving on to your penultimate bottle to take on to the desert island you have been cast away on, which would be your bottle of choice?
Next up, I have chosen a Southern Rhône red wine, Rayas 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I have tasted this wine a few times in fact, in terms of style it is very close to the wines where I grew up. If I had to pick one grower in the South of France and Châteauneuf-du-Pape it would have to be Rayas, they make extraordinary wines. It is one of these few growers that just never make bad wine, regardless of the year you know their wines will be absolutely amazing. Some growers know exactly what to do in the vineyard, make the right selection, reduce the crop dramatically if needed, and they will make great wines every year no matter what, Rayas is in this category. I love the style of the Domaine which is very distinctive. People often say that it has quite a Burgundian character which I agree with, when you drink Rayas you know you are drinking Rayas.
With 4 phenomenal wines already going with you, it is time for the grand finale tell us, what is the final wine that you would like to take with you, Philippe?
It has to be a Burgundy for my final choice! I have gone for a very young wine so I can watch it evolve whilst I am stuck on the desert island. I have chosen DRC la Tache 2016, I tasted this wine a couple of years ago and I was highly impressed. It was absolutely stunning. For me it is what Burgundy is all about with so much power, elegance and finesse. I could spend an hour or two drinking one glass. 2016 was a tricky vintage in Burgundy and production was very small but the result here is a wine of extraordinary concentration and depth. This is hands down the best young Burgundy I have ever tasted.
This is probably the most difficult question of all, if you had to choose just one of these bottles which would it be and why?
I will go for La Tache for the reasons I have just given – I will have 30 years to watch it evolve!
If you’d like to talk to us about experiencing these wines, get in touch to start your own desert island collection.