The Northern Rhone is dominated by big name producers: Chapoutier, Jaboulet, Guigal et al. So when someone rants and raves about a relatively unknown, inconspicuous winemaker, I perk up my ears- especially since we’ll be visiting his winery this October.
The estate is pretty small by any standards: about 8 acres and Yves Cuilleron wasn’t even going to be a winemaker; he wanted to be a mechanic! But when his uncle wanted to sell the winery established by his grandfather in 1920, Yves decided to buy it and transform it into his own vision of a top Rhone winery.
I first heard of Yves Cuilleron through an email sent by Italian Wine Merchants, a NYC retailer that specializes in Italian wines. Why would a retailer of Italian wines recommend a French winemaker? My curiosity was piqued and I decided if he was good enough for them, he was good enough for a visit on our Rhone tour this October. Here is the text of the email so you can decide for yourselves:
IWM’S CELLAR SELECTIONS PRESENTS
Caught in Côte Rôtie: Yves Cuilleron
When I first met Yves Cuilleron in a very average hotel restaurant in Tain l’Hermitage one Sunday evening in 2004, his humbleness struck me. The dirt under his fingernails gave me the impression that he had come to our table straight from his vineyards. He was bashfully surprised at our compliments of his wines and was the most genuine winemaker that I encountered on my short visit to the Northern Rhône. Today, Yves retains that humbleness, and the quality of his Viognier and Syrah have never faltered. He lets the wine express itself via the diverse vineyards of his estate by growing organically; each, with its differing soils, adds character to the grapes. Both hand-harvested, his Syrah is fermented in open, temperature controlled vats for about three weeks before 18 months of aging in barrique, while his Viognier undergoes fermentation in barrique with aging for nine months. His favorable sites help grow the best quality fruit, but it’s Cuilleron’s skilled vigneron and winemaker who ensure that his grapes retain a consistent quality in any vintage. Luckily, 2006 was a breeze for Rhône producers. Despite a cool August, it remained dry, overall, with only light rains in early September. In contrast to Southern Rhône, the north faced a more challenging growing season in 2007 of hailstorms and a cool, wet summer, yet very healthy yields remained by the beginning of September.
I hope you enjoy this selection of Yves Cuilleron’s exceptional Syrah and Viognier from the 2006 and 2007 vintages.
Christy A. Canterbury
Wine Acquisitions Director
IWM’S YVES CUILLERON CLASSICS FOR THE COLLECTOR
Producer Wine Vintage Size IWM Price US$
Yves Cuilleron Condrieu Vertige 2006 750ml $107.90^
Yves Cuilleron Condrieu Les Chaillets Vieilles Vignes 2007 750ml $78.85^
Yves Cuilleron Côte-Rôtie Madinière 2006 750ml $66.40^
Yves Cuilleron Côte-Rôtie Bassenon 2006 750ml $68.89^
Yves Cuilleron Côte-Rôtie Terres Sombres 2006 750ml $83.00^
Yves Cuilleron St. Joseph Rouge Les Pierres Sèches 2006 750ml $35.28^
Yves Cuilleron St. Joseph Rouge Les Pierres Sèches 2007 750ml $39.43^
Yves Cuilleron St. Joseph Rouge Les Serines 2006 750ml $51.88^
^All wines available in extremely limited quantities
Yves Cuilleron, Condrieu Vertige 2006, 750ml, $107.90
Made from a single parcel of Viognier planted in an amphitheater-like portion of the Côteau de Vernon vineyard facing directly
south, the wine is full of flowers and yellow fruits on the nose with a hint of oak. It’s complex on the palate with a long, mineral
finish. This wine can be drunk early but is made to age for up to 10 or more years.
Yves Cuilleron, Condrieu Les Chaillets Vieilles Vignes 2007, 750ml, $78.85
“Les Chaillets” is the local word for “terraces” and inspired this Viognier made from the oldest vines on the estate on the southsoutheast-
facing terraces overlooking Chavanay. With layers of ripe apricots, baking spices and minerals, this wine pairs well with
Yves Cuilleron, Côte-Rôtie Madinière 2006, 750ml, $66.40
Made from Syrah on two hectares of land on south-southeast-facing vines on the northern hill of Ampuis, the vineyard soils consist of schists
(metamorphic rocks), typical of this northern appellation. The wine is full of black-fruit aromas, good structure, balance and silky tannins.
This wine can age 10 years or more.
Yves Cuilleron, Côte-Rôtie Bassenon 2006, 750ml, $68.89
Named after the stream at the bottom of the vineyard, Bassenon is made of Syrah (90 percent) and Viognier (10 percent). This wine
has a nose of red and black berry fruit laced with floral notes. Delicate and rounded on the palate, the wine is full of tannins, and
only 8,000 bottles are produced.
Yves Cuilleron, Côte-Rôtie Terres Sombres 2006, 750ml, $83.00
Wait four or five years to fully enjoy this Syrah, or age for 15 years or more. The wine is fermented whole cluster to enliven its natural
aromas and is perfectly paired with game or lamb.
Yves Cuilleron, St. Joseph Rouge Les Pierres Sèches 2006, 750ml, $35.28
Even if 2007 started out rough, this vintage shines in this Rhône Syrah. A saturated ruby red, it has fresh red berry and licorice
aromas and zesty minerals on the palate.
Yves Cuilleron, St. Joseph Rouge Les Pierres Sèches 2007, 750ml, $39.43
Named after the stones and concrete that make up the terraces of this vineyard, Les Pierres Sèches is a saturated, ruby red with fresh
berry and licorice aromas and a persistent finish.
Yves Cuilleron, St. Joseph Rouge Les Serines 2006, 750ml, $51.88
“Les Serines,” the local name for Syrah, is a wine with such a small production that you can almost visualize squeezing every last
drop of juice from the grapes because of its whole cluster fermentation. This wine can be drunk in four to five years or age for 15
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