The white wines of Condrieu have enjoyed an excellent reputation for many generations.
The Popes - from the era when they resided in Avignon - were great enthusiasts. In the 16th century, the Chapter of Lyon of the Catholic Church used to serve them to VIP guests. Closer to the present day, legendary French gastronome Curnonsky rated it one the country's finest white wines. But unfortunately, phylloxera, the Great War and the 1930s economic crash, coupled with growing industrialisation, caused grape-growing in the area to be largely abandoned. Soon there was only 10 hectares (25 acres) under cultivation. The AOC, established in 1940, enabled the vineyards, kept alive by a handful of Viognier devotees, to benefit in the 1980s from the vibrant market upturn in the neighbouring AOCs of Côte Rôtie and Saint-Joseph. The abandoned slopes were replanted, and the low walls have now been rebuilt...

The cradle of Viognier is located in Condrieu and on the slopes of the neighbouring villages.
Up until recently, the variety was only planted in these areas. Legend has it that the Roman emperor Probus imported it from the coasts of Dalmatia. But in all likelihood, it has local origins.
The site of Condrieu, like all the Rhône Valley, has long been settled by humans. It was first a Gallo-Roman village before becoming the property of the Chapter of Lyon. The castlethat dominates the town was built in the 12th century by the archbishop in order to withstand the many assaults of those troubled times. Condrieu, like Saint Michel and Vérin, were the first suppliers
of the brave sailors who, for centuries, ran the river trade route between Lyon and Beaucaire.
Condrieu's wines have enjoyed an excellent reputation for generations. The popes, during the era when they resided in Avignon, were most appreciative, and in the 16th century the Chapter of Lyon served it to distinguished guests. Closer to the present day, celebrated gastronome Curnonsky rated
it one of the finest white wines in France. Unfortunately, phylloxera, the Great War and then the 1930s economic crisis, coupled with growing industrialisation, prompted many growers in the area to
abandon their vines. Condrieu wine market, the oldest in the area, ceased to be in the 1950s... due to a lack of makers. Soon there was no more than 10 hectares (25 acres) cultivated, compared to the 170 registered when the Condrieu AOC was established in 1940 and only covered land in three
communes:Condrieu, Vérin and Saint-Michel.
In 1967 the appellation was extended to embrace the four neighbouring villages: Chavanay, Saint-Pierre-de-B?uf, Malleval and Limony. This increased the AOC area to 387ha, but the planted area was still just 10 or so hectares.
Aquestion-mark hung over the appellation's future, as echoed by a student report in 1975, entitled "Are the vineyards doomed?".
In the 1980s the vineyards, kept alive by a handful of Viognier lovers, thankfully benefited from the same vibrant market as their neighbours in Côte Rôtie and Saint-Joseph. The abandoned hillsides were replanted, the low walls were rebuilt, and the appellation's survival seemed assured.


In 1986, the vignerons of Condrieu were faced with a growing number of planting requests.
To safeguard the quality of the wines, they further revised the AOC area, excluding all vines above 300 metres altitude. In agreement with the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO), a new boundary delimiting 262ha was drawn up. A third of this area was eliminated to keep only the
best-exposed slopes, where Viognier ripens best.
For manycenturies, the wine of Condrieu has been enjoyed as a sweet wine, made with grapes often harvested around All Saints Day (1st November). Then, in the early 20th century, dry wines began to
appear; and by the 1950s, most Condrieu was being made this way, although a few vignerons continue to produce a sweet version. These were no longer necessarily made with over-ripe grapes,but often wines whose fermentation was arrested - a method that has now practically vanished.
With the replanting of the vineyards well under way (about 180ha is now planted), with the production area trimmed to consist of only the best hillsides, a number of growers, given the frequent years of high maturity since 1990, have tried to revive the sweet Condrieu of yesteryear.
With the first experiments proving satisfactory, more and more makers are taking an interest in this over-ripe crop and vinifying a few barrels - it amounts to 3%-4% of total output in the Condrieu AOC.
Condrieu wines are thus mainly made dry, but are very rich and fragrant thanks to the Viognier grape, which can here give full expression to its nobility.

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