Pierre Gaillard has emerged from a non-oenological background to become a firmly established winemaker in the Northern Rhône. After seven years learning the trade at Vidal-Fleury and Guigal, he set up his own Domaine in 1986. He now has holdings in St-Joseph, Côte Rôtie and Condrieu and is a highly regarded figure. The two red St Joseph cuvées offer great value: Clos de La Cuminaille being a rich, gritty and structured wine while the Les Pierres, aged in 100% new wood, is finer and creamier. His standard Côte Rôtie blend is made from Syrah from both northern and southern sites with up to 5% Viognier making a very well balanced, floral wine with pure and wild forest fruits exploding onto the palate. His Rose Pourpe is made purely with Syrah grapes from plots around Rosier next door to La Landonne which, after fermentation, are matured in 100% new oak. It is a dense and weighty wine whose crunchy block of blackberry fruit flavours always require at least seven years of bottle age to soften.
An appellation in the Northern Rhône that produces white wine soley from the Viognier grape. Condrieu is situated just south of Côte Rôtie where the river bends and exposes the vineyards to the sun-blanched south. The popularity of this vineyard area waned in the sixties to the point where only 10 ha were planted however this has since rocketed up again to 100 ha, which is still tiny in comparison to most other wine-producing regions. The expansion and revival was due to an increase in quality-led producers growing and bottling their own wine. The area is small, difficult to work and yields are low, all of which conspire to make Condrieu an expensive wine. The north wind is cold and can be devastating so south facing slopes protecting the vines from the north are vitally important. The slopes are very steep so erosion is another problem growers face. Winemaking techniques vary according to producer, whether it be exclusively steel or barrel fermentation and whether to allow the wine to complete its malo or not. Condrieu is the ultimate expression of the Viognier, reaching a complexity and finesse achieved nowhere else in the world. The wine is always a floral, full-bodied one but style can vary from the ripe, unctuous and peachy to the elegant violet-scented and mineral. Among the top producers are Perret, Villard, Vernay and Cuilleron.
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