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New to Our Portfolio: Les Vins de Vienne

Y. Cuilleron (left), P. Gaillard (top), F. Villard

Greeting the new year head-on, we are psyched to announce that we are now the exclusive tri-state importer for Les Vins de Vienne, a much revered portfolio of Northern Rhone wines.  A collaboration inspired by history, Les Vins de Vienne is a partnership of Yves Cuilleron, Francois Villard and Pierre Gaillard, three superstar, Syrah-specialist vignerons in Rhone. “A lot of people credit them with the resurgence of Northern Rhone wines in the 1980’s,” says Patrick Burke, our French Portfolio Manager. “Everyone who’s a Northern Rhone fan knows these names.”

Beginning at Rhone’s northern most point in 1996, this trio purchased and rejuvenated the old terroir of the vineyard of Seyssuel, located on the left bank of the Rhone, just 25km from Lyon, north of Côte-Rôtie.  It was Gaillard’s readings of historic writers that led him to Seyssuel, home to famed wines during the Roman era, the Middle Ages, and the 19th century.  Purchasing his first vineyard in Malleval in 1981, in addition to Les Vins de Vienne, Pierre now manages 77ha of his own vineyards through the estates that he created at Malleval, Madeloc and Cottebrune.

When Cuilleron first visited Seyssuel, he looked up at the rising slopes and noted their exposure to the sun. As the vigneron and proprietor at Cave Yves Cuilleron, which was established by his grandfather in 1920, Yves remains committed to the entire process from vine-planting to bottling, controlling every aspect of his wines.  Practicing “viticulture raisonnable”, he aims to “produce the best possible grapes” to make “100% homemade wines” both at his own estate and at Les Vins de Vienne.

While Yves was looking up, Francois was gazing down at the Mediterranean-like scrubland, examining the potential of the soil at Seyssuel. Comprised of mostly granite, with schist and slate, the soil sits in the form of terraces that face south and south-west.  A former chef who learned winemaking on his own, the acclaimed Villard has his own domaine in Condrieu, along with holdings in St Joseph, St Veray and Côte Rôtie.

From the Seyssuel vineyard, comes three wines, each of which are fermented with indigenous yeast: Taburnum (100% viognier), a Latin term used to describe the terraces of this ancient Roman vineyard; Sotanum (100% syrah, 16 months in French oak casks), a name that refers to the health benefits of the beverage that used to be produced on these slopes; and Heluicum (100% syrah, 16 months in French oak), which refers to Helios, the Greek god of the sun.

In addition to the series Les Archeveques, which is primarily estate fruit, Les Vins de Vienne also produces L’Amphore d’Or and L’Amphore d’Argent, two series that are made from sourced fruit or from leased vineyards.  And because of the reputations behind Les Vins de Vienne, these relationships are forged with great respect, because other vintners want to work with them; it’s an honor to be associated with greatness.  And while there are many seemingly similar projects in the industry, Les Vins de Vienne sits far above the rest.  “These guys aren’t just the name on the door, with nobody home,” says Patrick, referring to other ‘second’ projects where winemakers outsource all of the work, “they employ the same work, process and philosophies that they do at their own estates.”

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