Tasting Reviews

Yves Cuilleron - Rhone Icon in Wellington

Yves Cuilleron - Rhone Valley Icon

It was a privilege to have iconic Rhone winegrower Yves Cuilleron in Wellington presenting a range of his wines, mainly new releases to keen wine enthusiasts at Glengarry, who are his New Zealand distributors. He is a third generation vigneron, carrying on the family business which began with his grandfather in 1920. In 1987, Yves took over the 3.5 ha vineyards consisting of 1 ha of vines in Condrieu, 2 ha of Saint Joseph red and 0.5 ha of Saint Joseph white. He was one of the leading figures in the modern renaissance of the Rhone Valley wine industry, by replanting and rejuvenating his vineyards.

Yves has expanded his holdings with acquisitions in other appellations, and his estate is now 75 ha in size. Specifically, Caves Yves Cuilleron has 8 ha in Cote-Rotie, 12 ha in Condrieu, 27 ha in Saint Joseph (7 ha in white and 20 ha in red), 4 ha in Crozes-Hermitage (one ha in white and 3 ha red), 3 ha in Saint-Peray, 1.5 ha in Cornas and 19.5 ha of IGP vines. The annual production is approx. 36,000 dozen.

Yves has further grown the business with a new winery built in Verlieu, collaborations with other vignerons in the region and in California, and consultation with winegrowers in other regions of France, as well as establishing Le Bistrot de Serine in Ampuis with other Rhone growers.

The range of wines has grown significantly, with tiers expressing different terroirs with increasing focus on sites or lieu-dits. Although he has explored the new clones, his most treasured resource is his holdings of old vines, which date back to 1911 in Cornas, 1923 and 1936 plantings in Saint Joseph, and 1938 in Condrieu. He believes that vines begin to show wine quality from around 15-20 years of age. The top cuvees are the limited production ‘Bourasseau’ wines from Condrieu, Saint Joseph and Cote-Rotie.

Yves Cuilleron’s approach to wine is not conventional, nor organic or biodynamic. It is "highly personal” and his philosophy "to grow the best possible grapes” in the form of "respectful manual treatment…with the fewest treatments possible”. Respecting the balance of the soils is paramount, so his winegrowing is "integrated and eco-friendly”.

The tasting with Yves Cuilleron was co-ordinated by Glengarry fine wine specialist Meredith Parkin and consisted of 10 wines served in flights. The 2015 vintage yielded big and rich wines, the 2016s more elegant, and 2017 is in between, notes Yves. My notes on the wines follow. www.cuilleron.com  www.glengarrywines.co.nz

Flight One: The White Wines
The whites are indigenous yeast fermented in barrique, the bottlings designated as fruit expressive given less time in barrel with botaonnage, the more ageworthy bottlings given 8-9 months in barrel, and the top cuvees up to 18 months in oak.

Yves Cuilleron ‘Les Vignes d’a Cote’ Collines Rhodaniennes IGP Viognier 2016
Bright light golden colour, slightly paler edge. The nose is softly full with ripe apricots, exotic florals and hints of citrus zest, with a firm core, showing clean varietal aromatics. Dry to taste and up-front with richness, body and power. The mouthfeel is rounded with soft acidity, the mouthfeel tending to solidness, maybe a little four-square. This has some warmth with soft phenolic grip which carries to the finish. A solidly-packed and full, fruity style to enjoy over the next 3-4 years. Indigenous yeast fermented. 50% each in tank and old oak. 12.5% alc. 17.5+/20 Nov 2017 RRP $30.00

Yves Cuilleron ‘Les Chaillets’ Condrieu 2016
Pale straw-yellow colour. The nose is one of finesse, the aromatics tightly bound and with a firm youthfulness, showing white asnd yellow stonefruits, and distinctive minerality. Dry and very elegantly constructed, the white stonefruits show with depth and intensity, ans a sleekness, with soft-textures, slipperiness and a sense of unctuousness. This has power, drive and linearity, the fruit and mouthfeel vibrant and with tension. This shows the potential of class and style. It will develop over the next 5-6+ years. A beauty. 13.0% alc. Aged 9 months in barriques. 19.0/20 Nov 2017 RRP $115.00

Flight Two: The Red Wines
All of the reds undergo a similar vinification, being fermented in open tank with 20-30% whole bunches, with 2 weeks maceration, the wine aged in barrels rather than foudre for more oxygenation. The wines are aged 16-18 months in barrel, the top cuvees in 30% new oak.

Yves Cuilleron ‘Lieu-Dit Les Chassis’ Crozes-Hermitage 2015
Dark, deep, saturated black-red colour, with youthful purple hues. The nose is tightly concentrated with intense blackberry fruit with dark rasp[berry, lifted violet florals, and minerals. Black pepper garrigue herb, and savoury notes provide complexity. Elegant in presentation on palate, this is still tightly bound, but the wine has rich and powerfully driven flavours of blackberries, raspberries and an array of black fruits with dark, savoury herb nuances, forming a refined, firm heart. Lovely fresh acidity enhances the vitality. Fine-grained tannins and excellent length. A superb and serious Crozes-Hermitage to keep a decade plus. 13.0% alc. Aged in 30% new oak. 19.0/20 Nov 2017 RRP$ 75.00

Yves Cuilleron ‘Les Serines’ St Joseph 2015
Very dark black-red, quite impenetrable, with youthful purple hues. This has a full and voluminous nose, with real depth, showing beautifully fragrant and perfumed, lifted blackberry and boysenberry fruit, with violet floras. A hint of jam indicates the riper end of the spectrum. On palate very elegant with piquant and penetrating flavours of black fruits and violet florals. The fruit is still tightly bound, but this already exudes finesse with a sense of delicacy. However there is plenty of extract and structure, and richness to go. A lesson in finesse and beauty. This will keep 10+ years. ‘Serine’ is the local name for Syrah. 18 months in 50% new barriques. 12.0% alc. 19.5-/20 Nov 2017 RRP $85.00

Yves Cuilleron ‘Lieu-Dit Les Cotes’ Cornas 2015
Dark, saturated black-red colour with purple hues, very youthful. The nose is very firm and tightly bound, with great depth and density, sold and quite robust in expression, the black fruits complexed by savoury game and garrique herbs, Full, deep and densely concentrated with rich, ripe black fruits with complex savoury game meat flavours. This is fulsome with a robustness, the tannins firm with fine, but considerable grip. This has a strength and iron core that carries to a very long finish. A wine to serve with slow-cooked game, over the next 10-15 years. Formerly called ‘Les Vires’. 18 months in 50% new barriques. 13.0% alc. 19.0+/20 Nov 2017 RRP $125.00

Yves Cuilleron ‘Les Vires’ Cornas 2007
Dark, deep, impenetrable black-red colour with garnet hues on a slightly lighter edge, still youthful in appearance. The bouquet features firm, deep black fruit aromas with smoky, savoury gamy fruit, with underlying perfumes. The nose is solid, but possesses a sense of elegance overall. Rich, lush and sweet-fruited, the flavours of black fruits are complexed by game notes, a touch of brett? If so, then totally acceptable here. Very good freshness and acidity, with fine-grained, flowery tannins, this has come together with style. This has secondary interest now. Another 6-8 years ahead easily though. 12.5% alc. 18.5+/20 Nov 2017 RRP $110.00

Flight Three: Cote-Rotie

Yves Cuilleron ‘Bassenon’ Cote-Rotie 2015
Saturated black-red cour with purple hues, very youthful in appearance. The nose is beautifully proportioned with rich, ripe aromatic blackberry and dark raspberry fruit, unfolding an amalgam of boysenberries and violet perfumes. This has depth and intensity, with poise. Rich, lush and deliciously succulent, the palate is exceptionally vibrant and the blackberry, boysenberry and raspberry fruit possesses wonderful vitality and freshness. The tannins are very fine and powdery, providing considerable structure, but the gorgeousness and fine beauty is retained. This is a very seriously rich and refined Cote-Rotie that will see 15+ years of life easily. Named after the stream at the foot of the hill. 90% Syrah and 10% Viognier. From the Cote Blonde. 18 months in barriques. 13.0% alc. 19.5/20 Nov 2017 RRP $99.00

Yves Cuilleron ‘Lieu-Dit Bonnivieres’ Cote-Rotie 2015 «««««
Saturated black-red colour, with youthful purple hues. The nose has deeply concentrated aromas with rich, ripe, savoury black and red berry fruits melded with a savoury, spice and earthy nuanced complexities, unveiling garrigue herbs. Rich and luscious, the palate exudes real power with succulent fruit flavours of savoury black fruits, with black-red florals intermingling with game, herbs and earthy notes. This has extract and power, the size lending linearity. This is still fresh and poised from the acidity Again, a suggestion of meat and brett. But this too is enveloped by the fruit opulence. A wine for 15-20 years cellaring. Formerly the ‘Terres Sombres’. Cote Brune.  18 months in barriques. 12.5% alc. 19.5/20 Nov 2017 RRP $115.00

Yves Cuilleron ‘Terres Sombres’ Cote-Rotie 2006
Dark, deep, black-red colour, near impenetrable, with garnet on the rim. The bouquet is remarkably elegant with fine proportion and a concentrated core of savoury, black-red fruits, spices, game, smoke, herbs and earth. This has secondary and tertiary complexities. Still beautifully rich and luscious, quit plus and opulent, the palate has body and presence. The complex and savoury flavours are underlined by fine-grained tannins, and the palate is enlivened by brisk acidity. The fruit is beginning to dry a tad, but the finish is very sustained, unfolding, smoke, game and spice notes. This is approaching its plateau. This secondary and tertiary, complex-flavoured wine will drink well for the next 5-6+ years. 15.0% alc. 18.5-/20 Nov 2017 RRP $115.00

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