When I taste the new vintage in the Rhône every autumn, I taste the wines blind, meaning the bottles are covered up. At the end, when the wines are revealed, many of the top performers are no great surprise. Something I find particularly exciting, however, is to see an estate that I’m unfamiliar with do better and better, year after year; a dark horse breaking away from the pack. In recent years, this is something I’ve witnessed with Vignobles Chirat.
Aurélien Chirat was tinkering with some machinery when I arrived at his winery to find out more. It’s located in the little village of Saint-Michel-sur-Rhône in the heart of Condrieu, high on a hillside overlooking the Rhône river. Aged 35, he is younger than I was expecting, a calm presence but bright and chatty.
Aurélien, a fourth generation winemaker, joined his father Gilbert at the estate in 2008. ‘When I arrived,’ said Aurélien, ‘he threw the keys at me and said “now it’s your job!”’ They worked together until February 2023, when his father fully retired.