2008 was a cool and wet vintage in the Northern Rhone which led to some flowering problems in the Spring, disease pressure and vigor. The best producers have steep, well-draining vineyard sites and practice active canopy management to allow aeration and maximize fruit exposure. Most importantly, they hand harvest for severe selection of fruit. In the small white appellation of Condrieu (about 350 planted acres), the vineyards are on a continuation of the steep slopes of Cote-Rotie to the north, on well-draining decomposed granite soils.
Guigal is a famous producer of classic reds from the Northern Rhone as well as “crus” from the Southern Rhone. They also produce a great Viognier white wine from the Condrieu appellation in the Northern Rhone. Even if one had not heard of the wine “La Doriane”, they would know immediately upon tasting that it is a wine of excellent quality. La Doriane is 100% Viognier from vines planted on well-draining steep slopes that produce a mere 25 hl/ha. La Doriane is fermented in new French oak followed by full malolactic fermentation which adds further mellowness and mouthfeel to the wine. It is aged for nine months and bottled in June. Guigal produces about 1,000 cases per year of La Doriane and it is available in limited quantities in the U.S.
The Guigal 2008 Condrieu La Doriane shows pronounced aromas of ripe apricots and peach flowers, with a touch of vanilla. The wine has great depth and weight with layers of fleshy apricot and pear flavors but at the same time, possessing great finesse and a very long finish. Drink now, has concentration of fruit to cellar 5-7 years.
Yves Cuilleron is a vibrant and charming man, and President of the official Condrieu appellation. He owns about 22 acres of Condrieu vineyards around the town of Chavanay, on south/south-east facing vineyards on poor, granite soils that are amended every three years or so to raise the pH. His Condrieu is fermented in barriques (small 225L barrels) followed by full malolactic fermentation. Cuilleron does not use any enzymes nor any cultured yeasts or ML bacteria to make his wine. The wine is then aged in barriques for nine months on the lees with some stirring at the beginning to give richness to the wine.
The Cuilleron 2008 Condrieu La Petite Cote is a fruit-driven wine with lifted white peach aromas. Notable for its freshness due to the cool vintage but well-balanced with yellow peach and citrus flavors and medium body. The minerality of the terroir and purity of fruit show through on this wine. Drink now and up to three years at its fruity best. The acidity of the vintage expands the range of potential food pairings. At a wonderful lunch with Yves at Le Cercle des Vignerons in Ampuis, he paired the La Peitite Cote with a salad topped with a goat cheese and fig stuffed pastry. The freshness of the wine complemented the tart goat cheese and vinaigrette in the salad.
Chateau Saint Cosme makes both estate and negociant wines including the Condrieu. The viognier is grown intensely at 10,000 vines/ha on microschist and yields a scant 25 hl/ha. The Chateau St. Cosme 2008 Condrieu has pronounced floral aromas and concentrated lemon curd flavors with a slight bitter finish which gives it a lift. Like all of Louis Barruol’s wines, this shows incredible balance and great length.