Chateau de Saint Cosme Condrieu 2017
Saint Cosme Condrieu shows classic aromas and flavors of dried apricot, peach, and orange blossom with fennel, anise, and elderflower. Twelve months of aging on its fine lees in used Burgundian pièce brings texture to the palate. This is a classic Condrieu. Viognier aged in neutral barrels has a full body and rich texture with medium acidity. It is easily paired with dishes that feature creamy sauces, mild white fish, and roasted pork or chicken.
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Tasted out of bottle, the 2017 Condrieu offers lots of honeyed pineapple, white flowers, and a hint of tangerine in a more medium-bodied, fresh, vibrant style. This was a hot, sunny vintage, yet this shows notable purity, freshness, and focus, and I suspect it will age longer than the 2018.
Chateau de Saint Cosme is the leading estate of Gigondas and produces the appellation’s benchmark wines. Wine has been produced on the site of Saint Cosme since Roman times, evident by the ancient Gallo-Roman vats carved into the limestone below the chateau. The property has been in the hands of Louis Barruol’s family since 1570. Henri and Claude Barruol took over in 1957 and gradually moved Saint Cosme away from the bulk wine business. Henri was one of the first in the region to work organically beginning in the 1970s. Louis Barruol took over from his father in 1992, making a dramatic shift to quality, adding a négociant arm to the business in 1997, and converting to biodynamics in 2010.
As the source of some of the most vibrant and powerful white wines in France, Condrieu is uniquely situated in one of the northern outposts of the Rhone River. It is the original Viognier appellation with a wine growing history reaching back well over two thousand years. Like most of the wine regions of the Northern Rhone, Condrieu’s vines grow on extremely steep and narrow granite terraces. But what makes the region unique is a topsoil, locally called, “arzelle,” made of decomposed mica. This and a sheltering of the harsh northern winds, make optimal sites to produce opulent and brilliant Viognier. It is a tiny zone with no room for expansion and produces miniscule amounts of wine each year, contributing to its allure.
A fine Condrieu will have aromas and flavors suggestive of ripe stone fruit, lime peel, green almond, ginger, white flowers and toasted nuts. A honeyed smell may mislead you to think the wine will be sweet but the modern style favors totally dry on the palate. Its texture will be full and soft but a touch of mineral will provide great balance.
Full-figured and charmingly floral, Viognier is one of the most important white grapes of the northern Rhône where it is used both to produce single varietal wines and as an important blending grape. Look for great New World examples from California, Oregon, Washington and cooler parts of Australia.