NORTHERN RHONE - FRANCE
Domaine Georges Vernay is widely regarded as the source of the greatest Condrieu - the reference for pure Viognier. Georges Vernay himself was instrumental in keeping the Condrieu appellation from extinction in the 1960s when there were only 8 hectares left under vine. The Vernays have worked tirelessly to promote Viognier and are largely responsible for its renaissance and modern global popularity.
In their Le Grand Guide des Vins de Franc, Bettane and Desseauve write:“In recent vintages, both wines Chaillées de L'Enfer and especially Coteau de Vernon are some of the greatest dry whites in the world in terms of their development and their grace. The other big success, perhaps even more significant, has been the perfecting of the red wines. Now the two Côte Rôtie wines - Blonde du Seigneur and especially Maison Rouge – are amongst the most brilliant interpretations of the appellation.”
In Condrieu, the cuvees are made from vineyards situated in Condrieu itself, the heart of the appellation, on south to southeast facing steep slopes, and all express the purest, most restrained expression of the Viognier grape. Côteau de Vernon, created in 1940 by Francis Vernay, is the reference amongst all Condrieu: 65 year old vines on decomposed granite locally called ‘gore’, is a wine of great personality and definition, and has on numerous occasion shown a remarkable ability to age. Les Terrasses de l’Empire, made from 40 year old vines is a great introduction to Condrieu, offering early approachability.
Côte-Rôtie is represented by two cuvees: Maison Rouge, a pure Syrah whose name refers to the small red house located at the feet of this impressively steep lieu-dit made of granite-rich soil and Blonde du Seigneur, a Syrah-Viognier blend which combines richness of flavours and a floral aspect.
Le Pied de Samson (Viognier, from just outside of Condrieu) and Fleurs de Mai (Syrah, from just outside Côte-Rôtie) constitute an ideal first step towards exploring this great domaine.
2015 Condrieu ‘Coteau de Vernon’
100 points, Jeb Dunnuck -“One of the most singular, majestic Condrieu I’ve ever tasted is the 2015 Condrieu Coteau De Vernon. I wish I could pour a taste of this heavenly wine for every reader. White peach, white flowers, hints of citrus oil, and subtle minerality all flow to a thrilling pure, elegant, yet powerful wine that could only come from this incredible terroir. Long and silky, with nothing out of place, it's as good as Condrieu gets. The benchmark estate in Condrieu is unquestionably that of Christine Vernay, who pulls from the magical hillside of Coteau du Vernon located just behind her home. This is pure granite terroir and all three of her Condrieu come basically from this steep hillside. Christine prefers a slightly longer élevage on her Condrieu, with the 2015s being the current release. I’ll review her 2016s next year. In addition to heavenly Condrieu, she makes a terrific set of Côte Rôtie."
2016 Viognier ‘Pied de Samson’
90 points, Jeb Dunnuck -“A terrific introduction for readers into the wines of Condrieu and the Vernay estate is the 2016 Collines Rhodaniennes Viognier 'Le Pied De Samson'. This cuvée comes all from higher elevation vines around the estate, and while it’s classified as a Vin de Pays, it’s worth noting these vines were once part of the Condrieu appellation (the reclassification occurred in 1986). Lovely notes of white flowers, white peach and hints of apricot all emerge from this beauty, which is medium-bodied, lively and fresh on the palate.”