We have travelled past the precipitous vineyards south of Lyon often, and once we even bought excellent Condrieu at the Cave Coopérative of St Désirat. We have also often bought and enjoyed viognier wines across the south of France and it is a scented grape variety often used in Rhône white wines with other grapes, as well as on its own. But last week was the moment to enjoy a few sunny days in a riverside hotel and to visit the village and the vineyard which is the original home of the viognier grape.
There is an even tinier and more prestigious Appellation, Château Grillet, tucked in the middle of this hillside area (it has its own railway station just south of Condrieu), but the 'larger' Appellation is still small enough. Its equally prestigious neighbour the Côte Rotie is on the riverside hills just to the north, between Condrieu and Lyon. The makers we visited have some vineyards there and we came back with a few bottles of that iconic wine, almost 100% syrah but with a splash of viognier of course to add an exotic touch.
But the white wine, Condrieu, was our main focus on this trip. Of course (as in most high profile areas) the less exalted wines are pretty good too. We went with a recommendation to a maker whose IGP viognier was recommended by a friend of a friend ad over the course of our stay in the hotel Bellevue in Les Roches de Condrieu (on the left bank facing the village of Condrieu and the vineyard hills behind) we drank glasses of this and of a late-picked viognier which was dark yellow and delicious.
So we visited the Mouton winery on the hilltop settlement of Rozay high above the Rhône valley late one afternoon, just after they ahd returned from picking grapes for the day. Of course we needed to make an appointment at this busy time of year, but we were received with warmth and courtesy, and we could taste both their IGP viognier and the 2 complex Condrieus, together with 2 Côte Rotie cuvées.
The hillside vineyards in the photos are named Châtillon for one of the cuvées, facing the river. We could see the vines from which one of our wines was made as we looked out of our bedroom windows or sat in the restaurant each day. It was a memorable trip, and the wines will be with us to remind us for some time to come.