Georges Vernay Condrieu Terrasses de l'Empire 2016
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A pioneer in the renewal of the Condrieu appellation, Domaine Georges Vernay has always made wines of unique style, notable for their finesse, elegance and harmony. The property has become a major emblem of Rhone Valley winegrowing, from the time when Georges Vernay saved the Condrieu appellation to the international awards earned by Christine Vernay’s Côte-Rôtie. Three generations have left the mark of the philosophy on the estate, while perpetuating its traditions in the greatest respect for both vines and winegrowers.
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, and the only one allowed in Condrieu and neighboring monopole (an entire appellation dedicated to just one winery), Château Grillet. It is also a blending variety in several appellations throughout the entire Rhône Valley. Viognier is grown throughout much of the rest of the wine world with some degree of success. Look for great New World examples from California, Chile, Oregon, Washington and cooler parts of Australia.
In the Glass
This is an aromatic variety making rich, complex and full-bodied white wines redolent of a full bouquet of flowers, stone and tropical fruits and a dash of spice. It is lower in acidity than most white wines, lending to its heavy impression on the palate. While a whiff of Viognier might suggest sweet flavors, these wines are typically quite dry.
Viognier is an intense, bold variety that can easily stand up to hearty food like pork loin with apricot stuffing, roasted chicken or chicken Kiev.
While Viognier is a white grape, it also plays an important role in the red wines of Côte Rôtie in the northern Rhône. About 5% Viognier is typically co-fermented with the Syrah in order to stabilize the color, and as an added benefit, add a subtle perfume.