2016 Domaine Xavier Gerard, Condrieu “L’Arbuel” Northern Rhone, France.
This long time Cote-Rotie and Condrieu estate was just plugging along with a solid lineup of offerings, but the transition to the younger generation has turned this little known Domaine into a real super star on the rise with the talented and hard working Xavier Gerard now running his family’s vineyards and cellar, I can attest to a dramatic upturn in quality here after tasting vintages 2013 to 2016 with his 2015 Cote-Rotie and the set of Condrieu bottlings, like this gorgeous cuvee L’Arbuel are all stunners! This tiny estate has focused on their main holdings in the mentioned Cote-Rotie and Condrieu plus a little parcel in Saint-Joseph to great effect and Xavier is proving exceptionally gifted in hand crafting the wines, bringing passion and energy to the cellar, while continuing to employ traditional and organic methods. I wrote about his Cote-Rotie, which reminds me of classic Rostaing La Landonne and the other cru Condrieu, the La Cote Chatillon, which is a spectacular and dense version, but I somehow missed posting my impressions of the most delicate and mineral driven cuvee L’Arbuel, which comes mostly from the highly regarded family parcel at Marmouzin, but also blended with a new parcel of in the Corbery lieu-dit that sits higher up on the granite slopes that give this bottling its cooler personality. The L’Abuel is sublimely balanced and while nicely fleshy and textural it has plenty of zip and natural acidity that really lifts this 100% Viognier to the next level.
Beautifully detailed and showing the absolute best character of the region and of Viognier grapes, the 2016 L’Abrbuel Condrieu delivers a stunning performance in the glass, reminding me of some of the modern classics, including Yves Cuilleron and Christine Vernay’s Domaine Georges Vernay, it gives layers of stone fruit and seductive aromatics that put it among the world’s best versions of this varietal. The wine evolves nicely with air revealing a honeysuckle perfume, fresh citrus and creamy apricot and tangy white peach as well as hints of spice and verbena making for a highly desirable white wine to enjoy with langoustine (small lobster) or spot prawns and or simple goat cheese filled ravioli pasta. The Xavier Gerard Condrieu(s) are made in separate lots with intense selections of the Viognier clusters and individual berries which are all seeing a natural or native yeast fermentation in cuve (small vats) afterwhich the wine spends close to one year in a mix of mainly used 500L and 225L barrels before final blending and bottling, again great care is given to each lot with these Viognier showing pure terroir influences and expressions. There’s a lot to admire in this wine and the whole collection of Xavier’s latest releases, I can’t wait to explore the 2017 and 2018 vintages that should be coming out soon, but the 2015 and 2016s are majestic wines that should not be missed with this Condrieu L’Arbuel being one of the top values, no question for the quality in the bottle.
($50 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive