Rhone-tripping: Wine Times Talks Condrieu With Yves Cuilleron

Yves Cuilleron is something of a Rhone winemaking legend. The King of Condrieu has been making wine since taking over the family estate after studying mechanical engineering at university but has warmed to it and now makes some of the very best wines in the region.

“Actually I studied engineering and mechanics but my uncle was about to sell his vineyard when I had just finished school and I worked one year with him and after that I worked alone”, Yves told Wine Times. “If you study mechanical engineering then it takes less time to repair things like the tractor – so there is a plus side!!”

Yves (right) with friend Chester Osborne and Wine Times' Stephy Poon

Yves (right) with friend Chester Osborne and Wine Times’ Stephy Poon

His estate comprises of 56 hectares, which encompasses 6 Crus, the majority of which is held in St. Joseph (15 hectares) but also farms both the Condrieu AOC (10 hectares) and Vin de France (10 hectares) and also has vineyards in Cote Rotie, Crozes Hermitage and Cornas.

Yves actually makes 14 reds, 13 whites and a Rosé from traditional grapes found in the Rhone – that is (for the reds) Syrah and (for the whites) Marsanne, Rousanne and, of course Viognier.

yc1“Condrieu in itself is a small appellation”, Yves says. “It’s about 180 hectares these days and is the origin of the Viognier grape. Just 40 years ago you would only find Viognier in Condrieu – at that time the whole appellation was just 15 hectares”.

“These days Viognier has been planted all over the south of France and also in the new world wine making countries”.

“Viognier is a very aromatic grape – you can find aromas of violets and apricots but sometimes there is not enough acidity so it’s important to find the right place to get the right balance – otherwise it will be heavy and over sweet”.

yc2“In the Northern Rhone we use malolactic fermentation – something they don’t do in the south of France. This gives a more complex and mineral tone to the wine. It also adds a creaminess to the wine, but if you have creaminess, you have to have minerality in order to have that balance”.

Asked if Viognier is a difficult grape to work with Yves noted. “It’s not so difficult to do the end vinification, but sometimes the yields from Viognier can be rather low”.

The Rhone Rangers fight it out over Syrah!

The Rhone Rangers fight it out over Syrah!

Yves is famed for his Condrieu of which they make 3 cuvees. Some are more fruity and fresh and, depending on the vineyard, some have more weight and body to them. “For my top Condrieu I give them a long aging time in barrels – but in all we only make around 25 to 30 thousand bottles”.

“These styles of wines go perfectly with Asian food” concludes Yves. “Although Condrieu is a dry wine, it has some very sweet aromas. At home, I usually pair it with Foie Gras but it also works really well with seafood and cheeses”.

We at Wine Times are big fans of Yves white wines (and he also makes some cracking sweet wine too) and think that if you are a lover of white wines then these are right up your alley. Wines from Yves can be found at Watson’s Wine Cellar, from Sarment Wines and also at the Winebeast retail shop in Wan Chai.