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Yves Cuilleron of Vins de Vienne

Yves Cuilleron of Vins de Vienne

“Yves Cuilleron asked me a few questions over dinner earlier this year,” said Tom, “as he’d been searching for the right partner in the US for many years, and was curious about our success and our history.  And while I assured him that we are much too small and too humble to be accredited with any reputed fame, I did tell him that when we taste a wine that we like and when we meet a vigneron that we admire, we act with direct intention.  So, here we are, unprecedented, we have waited 18 years to procure our first offering of Northern Rhône wines…”

These refined trophies have cleared the ports and will ship soon:

  • “Taburnum” Viognier 2009
  • “Sotanum” Syrah 2009
  • “Heluicum” Syrah 2010
  • Condrieu “La Chambee” 2010
  • Cote-Rotie “Les Essartailles” 2009
  • Hermitage “Les Chirats de St Christophe”
  • Cornas “Les Barcillants” 2009
  • Saint Joseph “L’Arzelle” 2009
  • Viognier IGP des Collines Rhodanienne 2011
  • “Remeage” Blanc Vin de France 2010
  • “Remeage” Rouge Vin de France 2009
  • Côtes du Rhone “Les Cranilles” 2010

When Yves was in town for our French Portfolio Tasting, we had some time to sit and talk about Vins de Vienne, his Rhône project with Francois Villard and Pierre Gaillard.

“A lot of people said it was impossible to work together,” he said, “but in our own Domaine, we do as we like…It’s a different way to work.  Three winemakers with the same philosophy…we have different styles, we don’t like exactly the same kind of wine.  In the beginning it was difficult, there was a lot of discussion.  When we work together, we have to defend…but it’s always the three together who decide everything, and now it’s more natural.

“It had to be three,” he added and laughed,  “it’s easier to make a decision. We vote if necessary.

“The idea at the beginning was to produce all wine from Rhône. Small production. High quality…We want to grow slowly…We want to make wine that is respectful of the terroir and the vintage, to have our own style.”

Yves Cuilleron, (image from Palate Press)

Purchasing and replanting vineyards on Seyssuel in 1996–Rhône’s northern most point–Vins de Vienne bottled their first vintage in 1998.  They bought land as it became available, and now the trio owns 12ha on Seyssuel, 1.5ha of which are planted to Viognier, while the rest supports Syrah.  Working with soil that is the same as what is found in Côte Rôtie–predominantly schist–they planted mostly red vines, because Syrah does well on schist.  On Seyssuel, the Viognier vines here are the only ones that are planted on schist soil; all of their other Viognier vines reside on granite.

And while Vins de Vienne now owns a total of 18ha in Côte Rôte, Condrieu, St Joseph and St Pierre, they still purchase fruit to support their holdings.  “We buy from the same producer,” said Yves.  “We’ve known them for 8-10 years. Each year, we visit the vineyard with them to discuss yields.  We give instruction.  It’s almost the same as if we owned [the vineyard] and now we know the terroir and the quality.”

In their Northern Rhône vineyards, the terraces are steep and the air is dry and windy.  Here they practice lutte raisonnée, or ‘the reasoned struggle’, employing no insecticides and as little treatment in the vineyard as possible.  Striving for low vigor vines, they end up with top quality fruit that has fewer problems with disease.  “The color of the leaf is important,” said Yves.  “If it’s too dark, it’s too much vigor.  We control the vigor by adding grass to the vineyard, to help control the yields.”

By planting high density vineyards, they have lower yields with better concentration in the fruit.

“For us to make a great wine,” said Yves, “we need beautiful grapes with good balance, so we can use a simple process to reflect the terroir.”

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