Condrieu AOC and the Côte-Rôtie AOC on two wheels!

As the hotel prep our bikes for us we have a little time to take in this stunning view of the  Rhone adjacent to Le Beau Rivage Hotel.

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We cycle into Condrieu at a moderate pace in search of a Boulangerie. On route we compose a wish list of must visit winemakers in Condrieu and the Côte Rôtie, naively thinking our list would be complete by the end of the day!

Breakfast is a simple affair of pain au chocolat, it’s only 11:45am and we have Domaine Georges Vernay in our sights. We hurry across the road into their tasting room opposite the boulangerie and are disappointed to learn that it’s about to close for lunch and advised to return after 2pm!

We see a sign for the local Tourist Office and decide to get some intel on the other winemakers on our wish list. Schoolboy error! Most winemakers in Condrieu are taking two weeks off before the vendage!

We cut our losses and decide to venture to the Côte Rôtie. As we pedal leisurely along the car free ViaRhôna greenway we can already feel the sun burning our arms and the warm breeze from the river on our faces.

As we reach a roundabout it’s decision time! Either rejoin the busy main road to Ampuis and dodge some French HGV drivers fuelled up on their mid morning plat du jour et demi bouteille de vin or dig deep and take the quiet and almost traffic free 1 in 5 ascent to the town of Tupin-et-Semons at the top of the plateau of the Côte Rôtie.

The gears work their magic and our legs push hard on the pedals as we pass rows of vines. It’s obvious that these grapes are all tended to and harvest by hand and it helps to give some understanding of the labour intensive costs associated with these wines.

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As we reach the summit we feel a mixture of exhaustion and exhilaration?

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Just past the church down a little lane we spot Auberge de la Source  A welcome oasis where we hope to take lunch and rehydrate!

The restaurant has the most incredible views across the Rhône and Côte Rôtie.

We meet the delightful Lucy, one of the co-proprietors who has recently taken over the running of the Auberge. She explains that they are full as they have a block booking from a local care home, the place is packed with local pensioners tucking into traditional Lyonnaise cooking.

It’s a really heartwarming sight to see the care and respect afforded to these senior citizens who are laughing and enjoying themselves, a model of care that should be aspired too, we think!

Lucy brings us a large jug of ice cool water and we order a glass of chilled St. Joseph white and one of a Condrieu, kick back and take in the panoramic view.

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We get a further boost when Lucy tells us that her partner and chef is happy to rustle up 2 Salade Niçoise during a break in service. We gratefully order and spontaeously ask for the wine list! After all it is our wedding anniversary and for once neither of us is driving!

We order a stunning Condrieu Maison Christophe Pichon 2016
It’s pale gold in appearance with a medium plus intensity on the nose of white peach, wet stones and white blossom. On the nose it’s dry, with medium acidity, a full body, high alcohol with fresh apricot notes and high turpines. Ending on a very long finish with a full and pleasing mouthfeel. This Condrieu is youthful at present drinking well now with good balance and length with is great!  It’s also showing enough intensity and complexity to keep you coming back for more. An outstanding wine.

We descend down the Côte Rôtie and head towards the river to pick up the ViaRhôna once again.

Cote Rotie vineyards near Tupin-et-Semons

Passing a vista of terraces planted with Syrah and a smattering of Viognier. A combination of the topography and the effects of the Mistral necessitating  different forms of viticulture as seen below. Bottom left bush vines free standing whilst bottom right they are tied at the top for resilience and support against the winds!

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Standing majestically just a few metres from the river is the iconic Domaine E. Guigal

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We arrive back in Condrieu in time for a visit to the legendary Domaine Georges Vernay . Georges is long retired and his daughter, Christine, is now running the Domaine and expanding its range to major in both reds as well as the historic whites, her father’s legacy. It’s incredible that there were 170 hectares under the AOC when granted in 1940.

By the 1950s there were just 6 hectares left with many producers giving up on the back breaking and labour intensive terraced viticulture that is a central feature of this AOC. At a time when his neighbours were pulling back Georges showed commitment and dedication to the terroir by clearing land on the slopes of the Coteau du Vernon of dense acacia and oak to plant a further acre! Today Christine has 22 hectares under viticulture all organically farmed.

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Inside the tasting room we opt to taste a range of wines.

Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes
Viognier: Pied de Samson 2016

Made from 100% Viognier but grown just above the 300m upper altitude limit of the Condrieu AOC and so classified as an IGP.  Fermented and matured in stainless steel, this wine is pale gold and made in a light style of Condrieu with lots of fresh stone fruit aromas of peach and apricot. It has medium plus acidity and medium to light medium alcohol with a medium finish.

Les Terrasses de L’empire Condrieu 2016

Classic nose of stone fruits all apricot and white peach with a hint of almond. Following through on the palate with medium body and medium plus acidity. Drinking well now with 2/4 years ageing potential. Fermented and matured in oak foudré for a richer style of Condrieu.

Les Chailles de L’Enfer Condrieu 2014

A Condrieu made in a style for ageing. Palate aromas of yellow fruit, especially ripe apricot more than white stone fruit but with a balanced background minerality. Medium plus body with medium acidity and long refined finish. A great wine that is delicately balanced with refined length and superb balance and complexity.

Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes Syrah: Fleurs du Mai 2016
Made from 100% Syrah but grown just above the 300m upper altitude limit of the Côte Rôtie AOC and so classified as an IGP.  Matured for 6 months in old wood barrels. Aromas of red cherry and tar secondary aromas on the nose with a purple/ruby appearance. Nose aromas continue on the palate with medium plus tannin and medium plus acidity. Drinking well now but will continue to improve over the next 4/5 years.

2015 Cote Rotie Blonde du Seigneur
A blend of 95% Syrah, 5% Viognier.Matured in 25% new oak barrel.
Medium purple appearance, jammy black currant nose with notes of toast and tar from secondary aromas. On the palate, dry with medium plus tannin, medium plus body, medium alcohol, medium plus acidity and long finish. A classic style for this AOC with great balance length, intensity and complexity, a little young now and will age for another 15 years or so.
After our boozy tasting we cycle back to the hotel, drop off our bottles and pick up our swim things for a dip in the municipal Lido on the other side of the river.

Here I fall foul of the Lido police who inset that my swimming shorts are too long and prohibit me from taking a refreshing dip in the pool. I fall on the mercy of the changing room attendant who passes me a pair of speedo trunks as my passport to the pool! With no options left I take the trunks and make for the pool. It’s so worth it! The pool is clean and refreshing and the perfect way to cool down after and cycling adventure.

With our body temperatures back to normal we cycle back to the hotel and turn around quickly. It’s a gorgeous evening and the restaurant manager decides to host service in the gardens by the river.

Knowing that it’s our wedding anniversary Julian has reserved us the best table in the garden right next to the still waters of the Rhône.

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Julian naturally recommends us a stunning Condrieu made in a style to perfectly accompany the pork filet mignon with a mustard sauce. The grapes for this wine are grown on terroir that is adjacent to the Chateau-Grillet AOC, the most prestigious in the Condrieu area but at prices out of my league.

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Condrieu Coteau du Chery 2015 Andre Perret
This wine is medium gold in appearance, with a medium plus intensity of peach and smokiness from partial oak. It is developing in character. On the palate it’s dry with medium plus acidity, high alcohol and a full bodied rounded rich mouthfeel with aromas of apricot and toasted cedar and a long lingering finish. In assesment there is balance in harmony with a great length, and intensity with complex flavours evolving. A great wine drinking well now and with some further ageing potential of a few years.

The richness of this style of Condrieu is perfect to balance the rich flavours of the pork and mustard main course.

We were so enchanted by the Apricot dessert from the tasting menu the night before that we reorder the same again along with a another glass of Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise.  To our surprise they put their own signature finish to the dish wishing us both a Happy Anniversary! A really lovely touch to bring a perfect day to its close!

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With the moon working its magic on the river we stroll back to our room after another amazing day!

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