Jeb Dunnuck - 30/12/2013
About this WINE
Domaine Yves Cuilleron
Founded by his grandfather in 1920, Yves now represents the third generation of Cuilleron vignerons although he initially trained as an engineer. The lure of the vine proved too hard to resist and, after a year's training at the École Viticole in Macon, he took over the vineyards in 1987. Back then it measured 3.5 hectares; he has since grown it to an impressive 75 hectares, spanning the length of the Northern Rhône. He makes over 40 different cuvées from the range of appellations: half red, half white. The winery itself if based in Chavanay – a commune just south of Condrieu.
He is particularly admired for his rich, aromatic and mineral expressions of Condrieu, where he owns 12 hectares of vines. In recent years he has been bottling some as single vineyards; the label of each featuring a map of the area. He aims to convey the particularities of each terroir, most notably the two types of granite – biotite and muscovite – prevalent in the soils. His top Condrieu wines are complex and age-worthy – he cautions to drink them either within seven years of vintage or to wait a further five to ten (at risk of finding them in a closed spell).
Yves also makes some very fine reds. He owns eight hectares in Côte-Rôtie and makes a variety of styles there, including single vineyard expressions. Here he also works with Serine, an indigenous Syrah clone (some call it a variety) with smaller berries and a distinct cherry note. It is gradually being replaced by the hardier Syrah, but some winemakers are striving to protect it.
Oak is quite a feature in his winemaking, but he uses it sympathetically. He does not allows it to dominate the fruit, but rather carve character into each. His ’20s show brilliant concentration and power, but also the freshness and approachability for which this vintage has been recognized.
Côte-Rôtie is one of the most famous of the northern Rhône appellations, with some single vineyard cuvées now selling for the same prices as First Growth Bordeaux. It is the northernmost outpost of the Syrah grape.Côte-Rôtie translates as ‘roasted hillside’, as the south-facing slopes are exposed to the maximum-possible sunlight. Vines have been planted here since Roman times, although the appellation was only created in 1940. Today it covers 500 hectares, with 276 hectares of vineyards stretched across eight kilometres.
Phylloxera devastated vineyards in the late 1800s and Côte-Rôtie’s fortunes remained in the doldrums for another century. After the War, a farmer would receive double the price for a kilo of apricots as for a kilo of grapes, hence vineyards were grubbed up and wine production became increasingly smaller.
It has only really been recognised as a top-quality wine-producing area since the 1970s, with Guigal being the main impetus behind its revival. The two best slopes, Côte Brune and Côte Blonde, rise steeply behind Ampuis and overlook the river. The Côte Brune wines are much firmer and more masculine (the soils are clay and ironstone), whereas the Côte Blonde makes wines with more finesse and elegance due to its light, sandy-limestone soil. Both the Côte Brune and Côte Blonde vineyards rise to 1,000 feet, with a gradient of 30 to 50 degrees.
The wines are made from the Syrah grape, however up to 20 percent of Viogner can be used in the blend, adding finesse, elegance and floral characteristics to the wine. Viognier ripens more quickly than Syrah and the appellation rules stipulate that the grapes must be added to the fermentation – rather than blended later. The best Côte-Rôtie are very deep in colour, tannic and spicy, and need 10 years to evolve and develop.
There are nearly 60 official vineyards (lieux-dits); the best-known are: La Mouline, La Chatillonne (Vidal-Fleury, owned by Guigal) and La Garde (Rostaing) in Côte Blonde; La Viallière, (Rostaing), La Landonne (Guigal, Rostaing) and La Turque (Guigal) in Côte Brune.
Styles vary from heavily-extracted tannic wines which need many years to soften through to lighter, supple and less-structured wines which do not require extended bottle ageing. The most famous wines of Côte-Rôtie are Guigal’s three single-vineyard cuvées: La Mouline, La Turque and La Landonne. These are aged in new wood for 48 months, and demand for them amongst connoisseurs and collectors is significant, leading to prices sometimes comparable to Bordeaux First Growths.
Recommended producers: Guigal, Gerrin, Rostaing, Ogier, Burgaud
Best vintages: 2006, 2005, 2004, 2001, 1999, 1991, 1990, 1985
A noble black grape variety grown particularly in the Northern Rhône where it produces the great red wines of Hermitage, Cote Rôtie and Cornas, and in Australia where it produces wines of startling depth and intensity. Reasonably low yields are a crucial factor for quality as is picking at optimum ripeness. Its heartland, Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, consists of 270 hectares of steeply terraced vineyards producing wines that brim with pepper, spices, tar and black treacle when young. After 5-10 years they become smooth and velvety with pronounced fruit characteristics of damsons, raspberries, blackcurrants and loganberries.
It is now grown extensively in the Southern Rhône where it is blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre to produce the great red wines of Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas amongst others. Its spiritual home in Australia is the Barossa Valley, where there are plantings dating as far back as 1860. Australian Shiraz tends to be sweeter than its Northern Rhône counterpart and the best examples are redolent of new leather, dark chocolate, liquorice, and prunes and display a blackcurrant lusciousness.
South African producers such as Eben Sadie are now producing world- class Shiraz wines that represent astonishing value for money.