Éric Texier > Wines > Northern Rhône > Condrieu

Condrieu

Condrieu
Condrieu produces one of the rarest white wines in France (and the world) form one of the most difficult varietals: Viognier. In fact, Viognier owes much of its success to Condrieu, as many believe the best expression of this varietal is found only here.

Viognier from Condrieu can be seductive and tantalizing with haunting floral and exotic fruit aromas and a supple, fleshy and complex palate that is fresh and crisp. In fact, Fernand Point, the magnificent and influential French chef of the Michelin three star restaurant La Pyramide during the mid 1900s (in Vienne, a few kilometers north of Condrieu), liked to serve Winston Churchill Condrieu with his culinary creations.

-100% Viognier
-Harvest is usually late September to early October
-A.O.C. established 27 April 1940 with 104 HA in production today

-Vines are 15 to 25 years old
-Southeast facing, very steep terrain with some terraces
-Sandy soil of granite, schist, loess and some clay

Vintage Notes

 

Wines  Éric's Condrieu boasts a clear, bright golden yellow color with elusive and tantalizing aromas of apricot, white peach and citrus plus fragrant violets and undertones of mineral and grass. Fresh and crisp on the palate , these elegant wines pair well with seafood, strong (bleu) cheese and spicy Indian and Asian foods and will age for 3 to 5 years.

 
Eric at Condrieu
 
Vineyards  The Condrieu vineyards site on a steep, south-southeasterly facing slope that hugs the western bank of the Rhône and is planted with 100% Viognier. The vines are on average 20 years old and are planted with limited terraces, oriented parallel to the slope spaced about a half meter apart. With such a steep slope the vineyard demands manual work, which includes harvesting in small baskets.

Terroir  Located about 40 KM south of Lyon and a mere 3 KM south of Ampuis (the capital of Côte Rôtie), Condrieu sits on the steep hillside behind the village of its namesake. The name Condrieu is derived from coin de ruisseau, which literally means 'bend in the stream.' It is here that the Rhône takes a large but gentle turn, which provides the finest vineyards with superb south-southeasterly exposure on the hillside above the cold waters of the Rhône.

The French call the sandy soil arzelle and firmly believe it is a prerequisite for growing quintessential Condrieu. The crumbly soil is a mixture of decomposed granite, mica, shist, loess and clay. It is usually gray in color, relatively shallow and easily erodes which causes a tedious and laborious task to replenish it on such steep terrain.

The windy mesoclimate combined with the southeasterly exposure provides the perfect balance to mother nature. Viognier, which is unpredictable at the best of times, is prone to powdery mildew. The Northern Rhône is infamous for heavy rains and the harsh northern winds of le mistral. Here, the wind ventilates the slope, keeping the vines naturally healthy and free from pests and mildew while the southeasterly exposure shelters the vines during flowering from the most powerful gusts of le mistral.

Vine with rocks

History  Condrieu has a long and disputed history with scarce and often contradictory documentation. On the one hand, many historians argue that Viognier (along with Syrah) was brought up the Rhône by Greek sailors between 600 and 400 B.C. But others, including locals to Condrieu who can trace their ancestry nearly back to the Romans, firmly believe it was the Romans, under Probus, who "imported" Viognier from Dalmatia during the 3rd century. Regardless, the first written account of Condrieu dates much later to 960 A.D. and not until 1450 were the people of Condrieu citizens of the jurisdiction of Lyon and thus allowed to sell their wines in Lyon.

Still, Viognier remained a local's wine until the late 1800s when there was an increase in the plantings throughout France. But for Condrieu, the difficult agricultural conditions, higher paying alternative fruit more suited for the terrain, industrial development during the first half of the 20th century and two world wars nearly wiped it off the wine region's map. By 1968 Condrieu had only 14HA in production but thankfully by the late 1970s the region was following it's neighbor Côte Rôtie into a renaissance period where plantings dramatically increased to the point that the A.O.C. had to begin controlling yields. Today there are approximately 104HA with A.O.C. status in production.

 

Condrieu 2001

2001 began with a mild winter that was followed by a warm and wet spring. Flowering started towards the end of May. August was hot and dry with temperatures reaching 33°C. September was sunny and dry but a little cold. The grapes were harvested on September 21 through September 23.

The 2001 Condrieu is exceptionally complex, aromatic and well-balanced.

 

Blend: 100% Viognier
Alcohol: 13% by volume

 

Suggested Aging: Up to 5 years
Cases Produced: 680

 
 

© 2003 Éric Texier