Wine Wednesday: Condrieu

By: Cecily Gamba

Happy Wine Wednesday, everyone! It’s that time of week again for the next stop on our educational adventure through all things Rhône. This week’s topic: The Northern Rhône Appellation of Condrieu.

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South of Côte-Rôtie in the northern Rhône, on the right bank of the river, lies the white wine growing region of Condrieu. Condrieu wines are exclusively made from Viognier, which is said to have originated in the region, and are often not the most easy wines to find. Though vines only make up 135 hectares of land, the vineyards in Condrieu are divided over 7 communes; Limoy, Chavanay, Saint-Michel-sur-Rhône, Saint-Pierre-de Boeuf, Vérin, and Condrieu.

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Though recently founded as an appellation in 1940, it is generally agreed that Condrieu was first cultivated by the Romans, who started growing Viognier in the region.

By the 18th century, Condrieu became popular in the lucrative Parisian market. During periods of peace between France and Great Britain, Condrieu became popular in the London market, as well.

Until the early 1970’s, Rhône wines had lost their momentum, and the only truly well known Rhône wines were coming from Hermitage. Post World War II, when demand was down, and the price to maintain labor for hillside vineyards was high, made for a particularly difficult time for producers in Condrieu. In fact, Viognier almost completely disappeared from the area in the 1950’s, with a few passionate winemakers keeping what was left alive, until a Condrieu renaissance in the 1980’s.

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Condrieu enjoys a continental climate with slight Mediterranean influences. In the summer, temperatures are very high, and winters are characterized as cold and wet. The south facing vineyards get plenty of sunshine during the day, and the well-drained, rocky soils store heat that is reflected back on the vines during the cooler nights. The Rhône river provides needed moisture, as well.

As mentioned, the only grape varietal permitted in Condrieu is Viognier. The Viognier clone grown in Condrieu is low yielding and less productive, producing only about 30,000 cases of wine annually, adding to the wine’s rarity and expense. Condrieu often is characterized on the nose with delicate yet distinct aromatics of peach, white flowers, and dried fruit. Some show star fruit, mango, melon, and anise. Texturally similar to Chardonnay, the wine is typically full bodied, and, though dry, Condrieus often tastes and feels sweet due to the fruity nature of the wine. The wine is generally believed to be best consumed within 3 years of production, however, some Condrieu wines may age gracefully and develop notes of musk, gingerbread, and tobacco.

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Try it at the girl & the fig!

The wine:

Domaine de la Roche Paradis, 2016 Condrieu

The pairing:

Wild Flounder Meunière: Yukon Potato Purée, Spinach, Lemon-Caper Brown Butter

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