Luxury condrieu and other viogniers | Came

Domaine François Merlin Condrieu Terroirs, Condrieu, Rhône, France 2020 (£48, I think of condrieu as a luxury wine, and I’d be lying if I said price doesn’t fall into that characterization: it’s very hard to find examples of this Rhône Valley white for under £30, and many far exceed that, which means it’s strictly for special occasions. Still, it’s not just the price that makes a good bottle of condrieu feel particularly pleasurable. For a dry wine, it is full-bodied: bulky and silky in texture, creamy and extravagantly aromatic, a complete sensory experience. At worst, all those characteristics combine into something trop: too much ripe apricot, too much honeysuckle, too overbearing. He becomes decadent and vain instead of merely indulgent. However, at their best, those qualities are somewhat, if not completely restricted. There is detail, freshness and a kind of buoyancy, as in the captivating example of Domaine François Merlin, which has a flowing, undulating feel, a cool spring current driving all the perfectly ripe apricot and fragrant peach blossom.

Muret Viognier, PGI Pays d’Oc, France 2021 (from £11.96,; Condrieu’s price and specialty is also explained by its relative rarity: it’s a small appellation on 200 hectares of vineyards in the northern Rhône Valley, a part of the world much better known for its earthy, flavorful and spicy Syrah red wines. . That the vines are tended for the most part by small growers, and grown on hillsides, neither of which lend themselves to cost cutting, is another factor preventing it from becoming an everyday drink. One of the biggest names in the Rhone, Guigal, makes a consistently good version at a reasonable price for the area of ​​£34.99 (vintage 2019, Waitrose). Another way to access the voluptuous pleasures of Condrieu at a more affordable price is to try something made from the same grape, viognier, from a less prestigious appellation. That could be in the Rhône Valley itself (the succulent Les Vins de Viennes Viognier IGP Collines Rhodaniennes 2021; £19.50, the, or it could be one of the many fine versions made in Languedoc-Roussillon (the succulent , Muret Viognier infused with frangipane).

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Yalumba Y Series Viognier, South Australia 2021 (£8, Tesco, Sainsbury’s) Viognier’s story is encouraging for those who like the idea of ​​varietal diversity, a concept that is, I suppose, something like the wine version of biodiversity. On the cusp of extinction in the 1970s, when no more than a handful of hectares were planted (all of them in Condrieu and the neighboring, tiny Châtea-Grillet appellations), viognier has since been planted to great effect throughout the wine world. I’m not sure if it’s as trendy as it was in the 2000s, when it was sometimes touted as the next big thing for lovers of the rich, ripe Chardonnays that were so prominent at the time. But I keep coming across examples of producers who seem to have mastered the balancing act that all good violinists manage: impress without being oppressive. The consistent Y series, from Australian viognier masters Yalumba, is always a good place to start a Viognier journey, while Andrew Murray Vineyards Santa Barbara County Viognier 2021 from California (£27.41, is beautifully, sensual fluidity.

Follow David Williams on Twitter @Daveydaibach

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