Luca Robinson, by email: On a recent visit to London retailer Hedonism Wines, I tasted E Guigal’s sublime La Doriane Condrieu 2016.
During further research into Condrieu wines, I was surprised to be told that their quality dips after five years from vintage (likened to becoming a troublesome teenager), getting ‘soapy’ characters before improving again later. What would cause this?
Matt Walls, DWWA Rhône Regional Chair, replies: Top Condrieu can easily last 20 years or more, but the northern Rhône’s star white evolves into a very different creature as it ages.
It’s either best drunk within four years of the vintage, or after 12. When young, it’s characterised by heady violet and jasmine aromas with juicy white peach flavours – and it’s a lovely time to drink it.
After 12 years, it loses its floral side, but gains more complexity – aromas of gingerbread, honey, lanolin and dried citrus peel, but still full and broad in body and richness.
Like many wines, including most northern Rhône reds, it enters an awkward phase between these two stages.
I haven’t experienced a ‘soapy’ character myself, but I can identify the point at which Condrieu has lost its vitality of youth but not yet gained the complexity of age.
If you are planning to put some Condrieu away, I’d focus on wines from the best terroirs, from fresh vintages, from domaines with a good track record for longevity – such as the top cuvées of Domaine Georges Vernay, or yes, E Guigal’s La Doriane.
This question first appeared in the May 2019 issue of Decanter magazine.