The name Condrieu is almost mythical in the wine world. Whilst every country and region strive to imitate it with their own style of Viognier, nowhere does it have such a sense of place than the spiritual home where it all started in Condrieu. It could easily have been so different if it were not for the driving force of George Vernay and his belief in the wines of this tiny appellation.

Today there are some 237 hectares under vine, but go back to 1990 and the story was very different with 40 hectares, further back still to the early 70’s and only 20 hectares existed; we owe huge debt of thanks to people like George Vernay and Robert Niero for keeping the faith. Matt Walls, in his new book ‘Wines of the Rhône’ quotes Rémi Niero saying ‘there aren’t many terroirs on earth that can make good Viognier’, and there is something very special about Viognier and this little piece of land.

They have immediate appeal and perhaps that is their foremost charm. In contrast to white Burgundy where the wines rarely give their best until at least a few years old, Condrieu in the main is ready to go from the off - but also has more potential for evolution than some commentators have allowed.

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Clos de la Bonnette

A new (ish) find, having tasted at trade shows and fairs in France, we were then thrilled that Matt Walls went so far as to list the 'Legende Bonnetta' cuvée as his top Condrieu from the 2019 vintage - a strong field with some fairly serious contenders!

Husband and wife team Isabelle & Henri are fully certified organic, they had been farming fruit and vegetables in the region since the 1970s but since 2009 have focused solely on the vine. They make some very compelling wines from a tiny 5 hectare estate, split between Condrieu and two sites in Côte Rôtie. Tasting these in London turned us into wide-eyed children – the wines are truly magical and surpassed our already elevated expectations. The Côte Rôtie and Condrieu are gorgeous – so sleek and polished, with a nose that you just want to dive into.

2022 CONDRIEU Roches d'Arbuel Clos de la Bonnette

2022 CONDRIEU Roches d'Arbuel Clos de la Bonnette

2022 Condrieu Roches d'Arbuel - bottled in April 23. Attractive nose, apricot & a touch of greet mango with jasmine, soft floral fruit style, a touch of apricot, peach and a slight hint of2022 Condrieu Roches d'Arbuel - bottled in April 23. Attractive nose, apricot & a touch of greet mango with jasmine, soft floral fruit style, a touch of apricot, peach and a slight hint of satsuma - nice flow of acidity too, the merest hint of ginger on the finish. Classy Condrieu - (Isabelle thinks this is showing very well at the moment).L&S (Oct 2023)

75cl bottles, case of 6

In Bond

2022 CONDRIEU Légende Bonnetta Clos de la Bonnette

2022 CONDRIEU Légende Bonnetta Clos de la Bonnette

2022 Condrieu Legende Bonnetta - bottled in July. A little muted on the nose, a bit closed possible due to just being bottled. A bit of attractive stone fruit, not quite singing yet, but still a2022 Condrieu Legende Bonnetta - bottled in July. A little muted on the nose, a bit closed possible due to just being bottled. A bit of attractive stone fruit, not quite singing yet, but still a good effort, musk, perfume stone fruit & apricot with bright fresh acidity, not an ounce of fat, delicious. L&S (Oct 2023)

75cl bottles, case of 6

In Bond

Domaine Benjamin et David Duclaux

Over the past decade, the quietly unassuming Benjamin & David Duclaux have steadfastly raised the profile of the region with the quality of their wines. This is undoubtedly one of the top domaines in Côte-Rôtie and if you like elegant, bright Burgundian style Syrah then there is no better estate to seek out.

Founded in 1928 by Frédéric Caillet, the great-grandfather of brothers Benjamin and David and then developed by their father Edmond, the domaine consists of 5.8 hectares of vines above Tupin et Semons, in the southern end of the Côte-Rôtie appellation, where the bedrock is gneiss and granite.

Here the brothers are aiming to make the elegant style of wine which this rocky vineyard produces - and they certainly succeed. The Chana (Syrah with 7% Viognier) is a cuvée that is simply a 'gourmandise' , supple, aromatic, fresh, pure. The Germine (Syrah with 3% Viognier) and the Maison Rouge (100% Syrah) are more structured and, while they can be drunk young, they will give their best with some age. In 2018 a new cuvée was added, Côteaux de Tupin, 100% and whole bunch with barrel ferment, these are immense wines and need patience. The Domaine has also produced a small volume of Condrieu since 2014 from a rented vineyard that they tend to.

The wine-making is gentle, there is 20% whole-bunch in the Germine , but otherwise the grapes are de-stemmed. The Chana is aged in demi-muids, the others in smaller barrels - the Maison Rouge getting 40% new wood. All the cuvées, with the exception of Côteaux de Tupin , are ready to drink after 2-3 years but will age very nicely too. Production is limited to a total of around 2000 cases a year for the whole domaine.

Benjamin Duclaux on the 2022 vintage:

'We harvested at the beginning of September. The weather in 2022 made for a relatively relaxed end to the season – there was no grass to cut and no disease pressure due to the drought. 2022 was a hot and dry year, but in Côte-Rôtie we had some relief from rains at the right moment (especially in June and August).
The resulting wines are complex with black fruits and a juicy texture. Overall, it's pretty similar to 2020: hot but with freshness. For me, It's definitely a good year.'

Domaine Clusel-Roch

From the 1950s to 1980 René and Josephine Clusel grew fruit and vegetables as well as grapes in Côte-Rôtie. Their son, Gilbert, with his wife Brigitte Roch, started to focus solely on the vineyards, and expanded the domaine a little.

Guillaume, Brigitte and Gilbert's son, joined the domaine in 2009 and is now in charge. He added significantly to the vineyard area, but mostly with the addition of Gamay in the Coteaux du Lyonnais. While the property is around 13 hectares, they still have only five hectares in Côte-Rôtie and just half a hectare in Condrieu. The vines are planted on terraces along the Côte-Rôtie, in the classic local style with two wooden stakes tied above each vine to help protect against the region's occasionally howling winds.

They were the first domaine to fully embrace organic practices and have been certified since 2002. They are a shining example of what can be achieved by hard work in the vineyards and truly artisan winemaking; their wines express the very best of this unique terroir up in the northern sector of Côte-Rôtie.

Les Schistes is the very approachable young cuvée from a selection of all plots, whilst the remaining cuvées are all single lieu dits. Annual production of Côte-Rôtie here still hovers at about 1250 cases per year. These are beautifully made wines with a very pure expression of place from this great region.

Domaine Graeme & Julie Bott

A love story and a bit of good fortune; a love of the Syrah grape that led Graeme to the Rhone and the love of his life Julie, who came together whilst working at the prestigious cellars of Stephane Ogier. Theirs is a back story of adventure and spirit and one of serendipity too.

Our relationship with the pair stretches back some 8 years or so, when we often stopped and shared a beer after the Marché aux vins in Ampuis every January, it was no surprise when they told us they were setting out on their own journey.

The surprise came when they discovered that the house they had purchased in Verin, complete with 0.35 hectare of garden, was within the appellation of Condrieu, between the in-demand Coteau de Chéry and the illustrious Chateau Grillet. Graeme & Julie like to pick early to capture the freshness, the wines tend be expressive, bright and pure.

Watch the videos: Domaine G&J Bott or Condrieu Lieu-Dit L'ALEAU.

Julie Bott on the 2022 vintage:

'After a historically dry summer and very hot weather, we thought we were heading for a challenging vintage. The vines were stressed from the lack of water and so were we!

Fortunately, the long-awaited rains arrived after the 15th of August, enabling the ripening to be revived and the berries to plump up a little. We were all relieved, both vines and winegrowers! The maturity which paused with the stress of the heat and lack of water allowed the alcohols levels to not rocket away. Thus the 2022 whites are balanced, the nose is marked by a beautiful aromatic expression, the mouth surprisingly offers freshness with a mineral finish.’

Domaine Patrick & Christophe Bonnefond

Christophe and Patrick took over this family domaine in 1990. It extends to ten hectares, with small amounts of IGP 'Collines Rhodaniennes' Viognier (0.5 hectare) and Syrah (1 hectare) as well as the Condrieu and the three cuvées of Côte-Rôtie.

The Condrieu (1 hectare) comes from the granite soils of the Côte Chatillon. It is fermented in 440l barrels (with 30% new wood) at 18C and aged on the lees for ten months.

The 'Colline de Couzou' Côte-Rôtie comes from several plots in the north and south of the appellation, on schist and granite, about six hectares in total. All the reds are fermented in stainless steel with around 20% whole bunches. The Couzou is then aged in 400l barrels for eighteen months, with 20% new wood. Production hovers just above 2000 cases a year.

The Côte Rozier (0.5 hectare) is in the north of the appellation, on schist and mica-schist. The vinification is the same, but the percentage of new wood for this and the Rochains goes up to 30% and the élevage in barrel is extended to 20 months. Only about 160 cases a year. The Rochains (1 hectare), a slightly bigger cuvée at 300 cases a year, is also in the north of the appellation, the other side of La Landonne, on a soil of schist with lots of iron oxide. These are the oldest vines of the domaine.

Christophe & Patrick Bonnefond have been at the forefront of everything good in Côte-Rotie for the past 20 years, with great sites in the north of the appellation as well as a small site in Tupin-et-Semons to the south. It has been fascinating watching the domaine develop into one of the go-to names for quality. The brothers have toned down their use of new oak in recent years and Christophe’s daughter Léa has joined the family business, adding a more gentle touch.

Domaine Rémi Niero

This is one of the original domaines of the Condrieu appellation, and perhaps without the dedication to Viognier from Niero (and the likes of Vernay), Condrieu would not have the world-class reputation it has today.

The domaine existed 45 years ago when the whole appellation was just 8 hectares of vines (it's now 200 hectares), under the name Pinchon. Rémi's father Robert married the Pinchon daughter, so now, having been Domaine Niero-Pinchon for a bit, it has been shortened to simply Niero when Rémi took over.

The smart and charming Rémi started to work alongside his father in 2004 and today oversees the domaine along with his wife Krystel. They are the 3rd generation of winemakers and continue the tradition of the estate's refined and pure wines from Viognier and Syrah working from their cellars in Condrieu. The domaine has recently fully converted to organic farming. The wines, much like the estate, are pristine and pure.

The Condrieus come from just over 4 hectares of vines, all in the commune of Condrieu itself, in the parcels Coteau de Chéry, La Roncharde, Côte Chatillon, La Caille, Vergelas and Corbéry. All of these are considered some of the of the best sites in the world for Viognier. The wines are aged in tank (60%) and barrel (40%) for a year.

The Côte-Rôties come from two sites, La Viallière and Le Coteau de Bassenon, from the southern end of the appellation, a total of nearly 2 hectares. They are aged for 16 months in barrel, with 20% new wood. Along with the exceptional Saint Joseph there is also a new Crozes Hermitage in the range.

Adrien Encontre on the 2022 vintage:

‘We’ve seen the influence of the sunshine reflected in all the wines of the 22 vintage. It’s given us profile of very aromatic whites, and juicy reds. A delicate vintage.’