A plentiful stash of flowers and fruit, Condrieu has a temperament as big as its terroir is small. A constant starburst of fragrances and flavours. Heady pleasure indeed.Christophe Tassan
The Condrieu terroir, on the right-bank of the Rhône, is famous for its white wines, and is the northern most white wine appellation in the Rhône Valley. These impressive wines inherit their exceptional character from the viognier that is planted here in its home terroir. The appellation’s narrow terraces are generally composed of granite and “arzelle”: a mixture of decomposed granite, mica, shale, and clay that gives Condrieu wines their fruity aromas of peaches and apricots.
The most prestigious vineyards are found on the right-bank of the Rhône, south of the Côte-Rôtie. Wine lovers will be sure to get away from the village and wind their way through the maze of vines that cover the hillside and, at the edge of soaring granite cliffs, produce a famous white cru.
When the viognier almost disappeared in the 1950s, a passionate few winemakers kept the appellation alive long enough to see a renaissance in the 1980s. Today, the AOC covers 110 hectares and has become a global benchmark, especially in the USA. (check area with chairman???)
Born from the capricious and subtle viognier – a grape variety native to Condrieu (though according to some sources, it is native to Dalmatia) and whose cultivation, legend would have it, was encouraged by the Roman Emperor Probus – the golden, delicate, and aromatic Condrieu reaches its best at a young age. Full bodied on the palate, its robust body reveals hints of peach and violet...
A single grape variety is used in Condrieu wines: the viognier (link to Grape Variety Fact Sheet). This unique variety of grape produces smooth, generous wines. In the glass, it is pale in colour with slight hints of green. Fresh but highly aromatic, Condrieu contains floral notes of violet, or fruits such as mango and apricot. At its peak, if radiates touches of musk, gingerbread and tobacco. Susceptible to oxidization, the wine should be enjoyed when young.
Viognier has been cultivated since Greek times (explaining its possible Dalmatian origins). Emperor Domitian ordered the vines to be torn from the earth in 92AD as he believed the wine had a detrimental effect on his soldiers, but in 280AD Emperor Probus had the vines replanted, stating that it had a beneficial effect on men.
First a Gallo-Roman village, Condrieu became the property of the Diocese of Lyon. In the 12th century, the archbishop built the castle that still dominates the city today, to fend of multiple assaults on the town. Like Saint Michel and Vérin, Condrieu was home to the brave sailors of the Rhône who for centuries would provide maritime transportation between Lyon and Beaucaire.
Condrieu’s wines have a reputation for excellence that already dates back several generations, back to the Popes of Avignon, and more recently, Curnonsky, the Prince of Gastronomy, named it as the best white wine in France.
It then underwent a turbulent period: phylloxera, World War One, the great depression, and the process of industrialization almost left the village abandoned. In the 1950s, the Condrieu wine market, the region’s oldest, disappeared... there were simply not enough winemakers. Soon there would remain only 10 or so farmed hectares out of the 170 that were defined when the AOC was created.
In 1940, the AOC was present in only three municipalities: Condrieu, Vérin, and Saint Michel. In 1967, it spread to four neighbouring villages: Chavanay, Saint Pierre de Boeuf, Malleval, and Limony, for a total area of 387 hectares... but only just over 10 hectares were planted.
The vines were nevertheless maintained by a small group of winemakers who were passionate about the viognier, and the vineyards were reborn in the 1980s: the abandoned hillsides were replanted and the terrace walls rebuilt. In 1986, Condrieu winemakers made a final alteration the appellation’s territory. One third of the surface area was removed, leaving only the hillsides with the best exposure, where the viognier matured to its very best.
See the decrees granting appellation status (INAO)1940Birth of AOC Condrieu
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The appellation’s vineyards are found 40km south of Lyon, and 10km from Vienne. It covers around 100 hectares and straddles three French counties. It is divided over seven municipalities: Condrieu, St Michel sur Rhône, Vérin, Chavanay, Saint Pierre de Boeuf, Malleval, and Limony, in the Rhône, Loire, and Ardèche counties.
Continental climate, similar to Lyon, with slight Mediterranean influences. Temperatures are, however, very high in summer due to the region’s exposure to the sun and rocky soils that store heat.
The right-bank of the Rhône Valley between Saint Romain en Gal and Serrières is characterized by greatly contrasting topography: the Rhône’s recent sediment and level terraces collide against the steep inclines that lead up to the “Pélussin plateau”. The vineyards grow there, grasping the parent rock long many narrow terraces, or “chayées”, that require constant upkeep.
Since ancient times, the rock has undergone various transformations (chemical alterations = not very exciting). Today, the granite is found in the deepest sections of the outcrops. Beneath the altered fringe, the rock has a crumbly appearance and the cracks contain significant deposits of clay.
These fissures are ideal places for vines to take root and ensure healthy growth for Condrieu vines thanks to the moisture contained in the clay. The outer layer of the fringe is never very thick on the slopes and is made up of altered or intact minerals, and fragments of rock and clay. The terraces conserve this section, resulting in soil that is richer in organic matter.
surface area168 hectares
in 20134 899 hl
Sales5 986 hectolitres
Exportation26% exported abroad
Average yield achieved29 hl/ha
* Export figures according to the most recent research
Source : Harvest statement 2013