A succession of misfortunes beginning with the phylloxera pandemic in the late 19th Century and continuing through two World Wars and the Wall Street Crash, almost put paid to the appellation of Condrieu and the Viognier grape. At its nadir in 1971 there were just 12 hectares under vine but a small group of determined vignerons, lead by the late Georges Vernay, kept the flame alive and during the 1980s and 1990s the inimitable wines from this specialist enclave of viticulture began to draw international attention. Today there are 200 hectares under vine and the wines of Condrieu are rightly revered by journalists, sommeliers and oenophiles.
Since 1997, Georges' daughter Christine has been at the helm at Domaine Georges Vernay crafting fruit-accentuated wines that are the epitome of sophistication and a marvellous expression of the Viognier grape. Her precocious 'Le Pied de Samson' bottling is not a Condrieu per se but an IGP Collines Rhodaniennes as it hails from the upper plateau beyond the appellation boundary. With attractive fleur blanche and honeysuckle scents, a wonderfully smooth palate of ripe apricots and an elegant dry finish, it is a relative bargain and has engendered a loyal following. Christine's renowned 'Terrasses de l'Empire' Condrieu is the main bottling in volume terms and has an inviting acacia and citrus blossom bouquet and seamless white peach palate underscored by a cooling mineral streak. It can support 3-5 years bottle age but is hard to resist in its youthful pomp. The flagship wine chez Vernay is the celebrated 'Coteau de Vernon' from the steep slopes in the appellation's central core. With diverse dried fruit and spice aromas, complex yellow stone fruit flavours and an ethereal texture, it is a world class offering that can be cellared for a decade. Since 1992, the estate has produced a third cuvée of Condrieu called 'Les Chaillées d'Enfer' from fruit from the upper slopes on the 'La Caille' and 'Sainte Agathe' climats. With fragrant preserved-peel and vanilla notes, a rich core of stewed orchard fruit and deftly-integrated oak, it is a great gastronomic wine ideally suited to classic Gallic dishes such as quenelles de brochet or poulet à la crème.