If you’re looking for something different in the world of white wine – something that’s not Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling – then the Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne- based whites of the Northern Rhone Valley could be just what you’re looking for!
Yves Cuilleron is the master white winemaker of this region. His winery is based in the tiny village of Verlieu, about 5kms south of Condrieu on the right bank of the Rhône River. His “basic” single varietal Viognier and Marsanne grown in the hills just south of the appellation of Condrieu (les Collines Rhôdaniennes ) are labelled “Les Vignes à Côté” and represent fantastic value.
Moving up a notch on the price ladder, his St Joseph Blanc Lombard comes from Marsanne grapes grown on very old south-east facing vines just south of Condrieu. These sand and granite soils give the wine an intense minerality, whilst fermentation in barrel followed by 9 months on the lees adds complexity and richness.
He is most famous however for his selection of Condrieus – 100% Viogniers from steep, granite-based hillsides facing south over the Rhone river in one of France’s smallest, least well-known but highest quality appellations. His Condrieu Petite Côte is fantastic value – delicious peach and apricot fruit with some richness from 9 months on the lees and barrel fermentation. Slightly more expensive is his Condrieu Les Chaillets, sourced from the best-exposed and oldest vines of the domaine. Here the apricot and slightly floral Viognier flavours have a slightly richer, more serious underlying minerality. And at the top of his Condrieu tree is the Vertige, renamed Lieu dit Vernon from 2015. This tiny, top quality vineyard produces 4,000 bottles per year of the finest expression of Viognier you will taste anywhere; highly recommended!