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2013 St Joseph Blanc, Le Lombard, Domaine Yves Cuilleron
Yves Cuilleron, is described by Wine Spectator as "the leader of Condrieu's new generation of winemakers." Yves represents the 4th generation of Cuilleron vignerons although he initially trained as a engineer. The lure of the vine proved too hard to resist and after a year's training at the Ecole Viticole in Macon he took over the vineyards in 1987.
Since then he has built an entirely new winery at Chavany facility while at the same time he acquired additional vineyard property. The domaine now produces about 50,000 bottles annually divided between the appellations of St. Joseph Blanc, St. Joseph Rouge, Côte-Rôtie and Condrieu.
Most of the vineyards are situated in and around the commune of Chavanay which is just south of the town of Condrieu. He produces approximately 12,000 to 15,000 bottles of Condrieu each year with his production split into 3 cuvees; La Petite Cote, an old vines cuvee Les Chaillets, and a late harvest cuvee Les Ayguets.
Marsanne is the predominant white grape variety grown in the Northern Rhône where it is used to produce white St. Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage, and Hermitage. It is a tricky grape to cultivate, being susceptible to diseases and being particularly sensitive to extreme climatic changes - if growing conditions are too cool, then it fails to ripen fully and produces thin, insipid wines, while, if too hot, the resultant wines are blowsy, overblown and out of balance.
In the Northern Rhône it tends to be blended with around 15% Rousanne and produces richly aromatic, nutty wines which age marvellously - the best examples are from Hermitage and particularly from Chapoutier. Increasingly it is being grown in the Southern Rhône and Languedoc Roussillon where it is bottled as a single varietal or blended with Roussanne, Viognier, and sometimes Chardonnay. It is also grown very successfully in Victoria in Australia where some of the world`s oldest Marsanne vines are to be found.
St Joseph is the second-largest appellation in the Northern Rhône with 50 growers producing wines from over 600 hectares of vineyards. Established in 1956, over 90 percent of the wine is red – made exclusively from the Syrah grape. The white wines, meanwhile, are typically a blend of Marsanne and Roussanne varieties. Its vineyards run due south on the west side below Condrieu, and are in six communes: Mauves, Tournon, St Jean-de-Muzols, Lemps, Vion and Glun.The styles of wine in St Joseph tend to be much lighter than other red Appellations d'Origine Contrôlee and the quality can vary dramatically. The soils and climate differ, as it is a long, narrow AOC. There is no particular characteristic of the commune as some wines are produced near Côte-Rôtie, while others are near to Cornas.
The best St Josephs are still produced in the original heartland of the appellation between St Jean-de-Muzols and Mauves, where soils are predominately granitic with patches of limestone and schist. Typically, even the finest St Josephs are slightly lighter and faster-maturing than the wines of Hermitage, as St Joseph's east-facing vineyards lose the sun up to two hours earlier in the crucial ripening season.
To meet demand, some extensions of the appellation have been made on less than ideal land, producing wines of indifferent quality.
Recommended producers: Pierre Gaillard, Jerome Coursodon, Paul Jaboulet
Best vintages: 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2000, 1999, 1996, 1990
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