Far removed from the plump, languid Viogniers from less unique terroirs, Domaine Georges Vernay’s three Condrieu, remain quite unlike any other wine produced in the world. Made from tiny yields on incredibly steep granite terraces, they are not cheap, but then nor should they be. They come from one of the most challenging – and expensive to manage – vineyard areas in the world, and they are benchmark examples. In the firmament of great white wine, these are counted amongst the very best.
Befitting the civility and studious nature of this Domaine, it is appropriate that their measured evolution from a great grower in the Northern Rhône into one of the greatest growers in France has been understated. At Domaine Georges Vernay, authenticity comes in the form of old vines, low yields and the mantra of ‘minimal intervention’. We could fill pages with the recent critical success that winemaker Christine Vernay and her wines have achieved over the past few years. This is actually quite scary considering that even a few years back it didn’t seem possible for their wines to get much better. And yet, that is exactly what has happened.
Christine Vernay’s received the “Wine Person of the Year 2012” award from the two leading French wine critics, Michel Bettane and Thierry Desseauve. In their new guide, 2012 Le Grand Guide des Vins de France, Vernay was elevated to the top “5 Star” rating. Vernay joins a clique of only 30 French Estates - that includes Domaine de la Romanee Conti, Ausone, Latour, Margaux, Lafite Rothschild and Yquem. It’s also worth noting that Vernay probably is the most artisanal of these and is also one of the few family-owned Domaines in this class. It’s an incredible achievement, yet for those insiders familiar with the wines, it’s an achievement that will not surprise.
There are two prestigious Condrieu cuvees, Côteau de Vernon and Les Chaillées de l’Enfer. The ‘normal’ cuvée is known as “Les Terrasses de l’Empire”. Today, the two Côte Rôties produced - la Blonde du Seigneur and Maison Rouge - are also regarded as some of the finest in the region. There is some great value to be had from the le Pied de Samson Viognier and the Georges Vernay Syrah.