Scaling Condrieu’s Peak

Since joining his father at Domaine Michel Ogier in 1997, Stéphane Ogier has become famed for his powerful La Belle Hélène and Lancement Côte Rôties.

Stéphane’s work in Condrieu has been just as exciting, though it’s been guided by a somewhat different philosophy. As he told Josh Raynolds, “I want to make a delicate, feminine style of Condrieu ... I don’t want them to be in the ripe, weighty style ... I prefer mystery to drama.”

Stéphane’s ultimate Condrieu achievement is, of course, the Vieilles Vignes de Jacques Vernay, made from 65-year-old vines in the village of Saint-Pierre-de-Boeuf. Nearly impossible to find, it is one of the great expressions of Viognier on the planet.

The granite in Saint-Pierre-de-Boeuf, carved into impossibly steep slopes by the Batalon stream, produces strikingly mineral Condrieu. Ogier’s fine touch seamlessly marries spectacular richness and perfume with superb precision and vibrancy. This is especially true in the three great vintages of 2011, 2013 and 2015 (rated 96, 96 and 97, respectively, in the Wine Advocate).

The Move to Larger Barrels

To express his terroirs fully, Stéphane ferments his Condrieus with the native yeasts at low temperature before aging on the lees in foudre and demi-muid for ten months before bottling. He allows the wines to complete the malolactic fermentation to enhance their richness and texture, but doesn’t stir the lees to preserve their high-toned elegance.

These three vintages are the very model of the tension between opulence and elegance that defines classic Condrieu. And production is tiny, with a mere 125 cases made per vintage.

Given such small production, finding even a single vintage of Vieilles Vignes de Jacques Vernay would be a challenge. Finding three of his best borders on the impossible, but that’s exactly what we’ve done.

If you love great Condrieu, this is a must purchase.

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