Viognier has really started to arrive in the public conciousness over the last few years with lovely examples from the New World beginning to receive some attention – however it is in the Northern Rhone that it finds both it’s home and it’s best wines. Here the two appellations of Condrieu and Chateau Grillet (a single estate with it’s own appellation for it’s wine made from Viognier) form the major white only appellation of the Rhone (there are of course plenty of other white wines such as Hermitage Blanc, Rhone Blanc, Chateauneuf du Pape and so on). Chateau Grillet borders Cote Rotie to the North and Condrieu to the South which in turns has borders with St Joseph on the Western bank of the river. Here the granite soils warm during the day and reflect warmth back to the vine long after the sun has cooled for the day.
I first came across Jaboulet on honeymoon in the Southern Rhone in 2003 and shortly afterwards when their basic Cotes du Rhones became a staple in our household. Jaboulet is one of the historic ‘big’ firms of negociants based in the Northern Rhone, most famous for their Hermitage La Chapelle which in the past has been one of the regions legendary wines while other wines such as their Crozes Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert were synonymous with huge quality for the price. Towards the end of the 1990’s the quality of wines began to dip and it seemed that the families interest in the wines was fading. During 2004 and 2005 the company was effectively up for sale meaning that grape purchases from growers were reduced significantly – to the extend that their biggest selling wine Parallel 45 was not made in 2004.
In 2006 the company was eventually sold to the Frey family, owners of Chateau La Lagune who set about making widespread changes in winemaking, harvesting and viticulture, and a quick browse of Robert Parker’s site for instance shows that this hard work seems to have paid off. Wines that were scoring mid 80 points in 2003-2006 are now more often scoring over 90 points. So whereas 2012 or 2009 Chapelle scored 97+ points, 2005 scored a mere 88 points and 2000 scored 86 points.
This is an estate that is now back on the road producing some lovely lovely wines that will age gracefully and it is wonderful to see this old producer, with some of the best vineyard holdings in the region re-established as a producer of the highest calibre.
Paul Jaboulet Aine’ Condrieu Domaine des Grands Amandiers 2011 – 14.5%abv
A beautifully fragrant nose rich with honeysuckle, sweet juicy apricots and subtle nutmeg spice. The palate is smooth, rich and a touch oily with great concentration, delightful peach, passion fruit and apricot. This fruit is pure and right at the forefront of this wine. The length here is incredible – it has just a touch of minerality too that adds to the overall appeal. I really really liked this wine. 93 points.