At this stage of his career Yves Cuilleron has already fulfilled the promise set years ago by Wine Spectator on becoming “the leader of Condrieu's new generation of winemakers." As one of the most important and sought-after producers in the appellation, Cuilleron has been rewarded with a strong international following. Fervernt devotees– including us–chase after his wines year in and year out, not just because they represent some of the best in the region, but they are among the safest and most consistent performers within the entire Rhône.
The fun part it is, despite his view from the top the man is still hungry to get better. His 2015’s were masterful, but it is his 2016’s (another epic vintage in the Rhône) that he is adjusting the script. You still have the sumptuousness of his fruit match layer by layer the complexity and specificity of his terroir. What has changed is his more narrow focus on purity and brightness.
With the Spring days getting warmer this is the perfect moment to seize on Cuilleron’s 2016 release of Condrieu. Shimmering layers of apricot, quince, peach and citrus and flowers, fresh acidity and round, smooth shiny mineral texture, the gu has nailed it. The end result is one of the most exciting Yves Cuilleron releases since we can remember.
2016 Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes Viognier
From Importer Neal Rosenthal: “The Viognier for this cuvée is sourced from vineyards in the village of Chavanay, again planted to granite-infused soil. The fermentations (alcoholic and malolactic) are done in stainless steel; then, the wines are racked into a mix of stainless steel cuves and small barrels for a six-month elevage before bottling.”
2016 Condrieu La Petite Cote
From Importer Neal Rosenthal: “The vineyards of Viognier are planted on terraces with a south-southeast exposure in the commune of Chavanay. The wine is barrel-fermented and barrel-aged; the elevage is nine months with regular batonnage occurring.”
2016 Condrieu Les Chaillets
From Importer Neal Rosenthal: “This cuvée is sourced from the best exposed and the oldest Viognier vines of the domaine (south-southeast exposure, planted on terraces in the commune of Chavanay). Barrel-fermented and barrel-aged with regular batonnage during the nine-month elevage.”
More About the Wine
Condrieu can be divided into two tribes: bodybuilders and ballerinas.
Many unfortunately forget that far too many in the Northern Rhône are trying to produce Condrieu in the New World style –wines which feel nearly physical in your mout boasting terrific texture but usually doomed with high alcohol, overly ripe, fleshy fruit. At the opposite side are the ballerinas, where mineral, not fruit, are the main performance. Mr. Cuilleron has always done a terrific job gilding between the two camps, especially for his blancs. While he clearly is fascinated on the way his terroir appears in the bottle –both in flavor and texture – he doesn’t shy away from keeping the wines fruit forward in his examination. As the years have progressed it is clear Mr. Cuilleron’s sensitivity has sharpened, and his 2016’s are some of his most convincing display to that fact. These are beautiful whites that triumph the perfect amount of exotic fruit we have come to crave from Condrieu, now delightfully fit inside an elegant, low alcohol body.