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The Wines

50% 1936 Viognier planted by Francis Vernay, father of Georges, 50% 1960s Viognier from two faces of Vernon slope, fermented, raised 25% new, 75% 2-4 year oak 12-16 months, 6-7,000 b (increased from 4,500 b since early 2000s)

2018

attractive yellow robe; the bouquet is a winner, classic Condrieu – pear, pear skin, a little note of apricot, wax. It’s stealthily full, but carries that off well, with refinement. The palate as usual is led by the sève or sap of the old vines, with the most fine grain in the texture, as if the arzelle fine sand underpins it. There are discreet notes of cooked lime, citrus, honeysuckle flowers. It most graciously develops depth as it finishes, takes everything in its stride. Decant it. 14.5°. 2035-37 Dec 2019

2017

yellow robe; the bouquet is careful, defined by ripe nectarine fruit, has a peach, muskily floral nature, notes of liquid honey. The palate comes with a dried fruits flavour, apricot and vanilla, the texture thick, concentrated. It continues with more strength than finesse. It has a red wine structure, and is a Vernon to tuck away for another four years or so. It’s a big wine in essence, that needs to straighten out further. 14°. From 2023. 2035-37 Dec 2019

2016 ()

yellow robe; the bouquet is lying in wait, bears a discreet aroma, notes of brioche, wax, pear present, a little tangerine clarity that lifts it gently. This is most elegant, strokes the palate with its refined richness and most continuous flow. The gras is present all through, right into a finish on a little knuckle, tannin, grip. It’s not open now - no surprise given its ageing potential and profile. There are dried fruits, and a very fine touch of mineral on the aftertaste, as its structure shows through. This will be splendid after eight to ten years’ old, and will live well. Decant it. In the short term, leave until 2021. 14°. 2038-40 Dec 2019

2015 ()

a dense yellow robe here. Smoky oak-vanilla airs sit above one of pear in syrup, ripe apricot. This is a solid, fuelled bouquet. It is still very much in the cellar, on its raising. The palate connects closely to the nose, so is full and coated, a textured wine with fine borders, a release from the density. The flavour for now is a concentrated pear. It holds fine acidity, if not great amounts of it. This has luxury and hidden moments, a very good potential to draw in considerate drinkers. It has structure, a bit like a red wine. 14.5°. Bottled early Dec 2016. 2030-32 July 2017

2014

fine yellow robe. The nose is curvy, has a gentle depth, an air of ripe Pear William with apricot, licorice, spring flowers, a discreet line of freshness. The palate is most serene, gives a lissom run of pear-peach fruit with tightening of grip in a smoky aftertaste. The balance is beautiful. This is hardly on the road yet; it is super fine. 14°. From 2018. 2032-34 Oct 2016 Previously Dec 2015 ****(*) rather full yellow, rich aspect on the robe. Has a quince, peach aroma, a little lime and elderberry, a subdued air of vanilla. It is a broad and confidently deep nose that also gives cooked banana, crème brûlée, thin Melba toast, aniseed. The palate presents a coated picture, offers suave, compact white stone fruit such as apricot; fine late acidity helps to keep it on the go. This is formed around richness, with freshness an add-on, what I might term a finesse richness year for Vernon. The bouquet will be a big, varied affair in time. The palate will become more nuanced, too, so it is a pity to drink this young: it is only at half its potential. It is pretty long and well furnished. 14°. From 2018. 2029-31 Dec 2015

2013

yellow robe; the nose is reserved, but breathes an effortless elegance. Within there is a classic aroma of pear, cooked pear, with a nugget of licorice and infused tea such as camomile. The sense is given of plenty in the locker for the future, combining both finesse and an eking out of depth over time. The palate is also reserved: the juice is fine and lissom, with the finish giving neat droplets of flavour, ending on an almond, floral combine. This is a dainty Vernon, one that delivers its quality and depth by stealth. A clue about its southern origins comes from its glow on the aftertaste. From spring 2017 – no hurry. It reminds me of top grade white Burgundy. 13.8°. 2029-31 Apr 2015  Previously Feb 2015 ****(*) pale robe, legs visible. Has a restrained, beau nose with implicit reserves; it shows exotic fruits, banana, oaking, bears the vintage freshness. Certainly more to come from it, is just hinting at its potential now. The palate is till closed, but bears elegant white fruit such apricot, with tang and uplift as it finishes. A wine of inner strength. I like its sides, which give a hint of tannin and fencing to keep it running straight. Has long-term potential. Decant it, and, preferably, wait until spring 2016 at the earliest. 13.8°. 2027-29  GB £756/12 bots in bond Berry Brothers 0800 280 2440 +44(0)207 022 8973  www.bbr.com  Feb 2015

2012

yellow robe; there is a broad canvass of youthful Condrieu on the nose, which shows overt toasting, and an apricot-liquid honey, white raisin ripeness. A neat note of aniseed is present, too. The palate is billowing into a stage of overt gras richness, that richness concentrated into a round ball that for now doesn’t extend far. It requires time to lengthen it and to spread the pleasure further. The flavour resembles a guava jelly, for instance, but is dumb at present. Drink this with Vieille France cuisine, butter-based sauces – it is a gras Vernon. 14°. From mid-2016. 2027-29  Apr 2015

2011 ()

yellow colour. The bouquet is broad, exuberant, with exotic fruits to the fore, mango and papaya – it has a jelly-like quality, and sets the pulse racing. There is also a near Riesling quality lurking with it. Hmm. The palate is more toned down than the nose: it presents a concentrated heart of fruit such as peach jam, with a quince clarity towards the finish. There is also white tobacco on the finish, which is varied and complex. This is hovering between flamboyance and reserve just now. Decant it. 14°. 2028-30 Apr 2015 Previously Oct 2013 ***** the nose is a little mysterious – an air of light vanilla, hints of violets, peach and hazelnut: the bouquet is very precise, well delineated, gives fine pear and wax also. The attack is a most winning supple affair. This is joli wine indeed – it carries freshness and salinity, and gives very good direction on the finish, where licorice and aniseed appear after a bonny ball of gras. The flavours centre on pear, apricot, nuts. Subtle, mysterious wine. 14°. “I am very happy; it is evolving well on the nose. 2010 was more complicated to vinify. It is a soft vintage,” Christine Vernay. 2029-31 Oct 2013 Previously March 2013 ****(*) rich looking yellow robe, peach hues. The nose is also rich, has enough lift to avoid being weighty, bears a little pear skin crispness and an oily, waxen couch. This is take your time wine – dwell on your glass, you must drink this with haute cuisine. Present are deep aromas, scaled ones such as orange marmalade and a hint of Poire William eau de vie. It is broad, prolonged. The palate is a rich tangle, a criss-cross of spice, zest, fresh acidity and a little ginger; pear jam and compote is its central flavour. The attack is a rich, restrained ball before it straightens on its freshness. There is fine, fresh late acidity. Hardly developed yet, has plenty of cards to play over the next 15 to 18 years. The finale features tight, mineral, wee oak toast and a touch of burn. The gras is obvious, not subtle, and this year the surrounds are not as profound as the best vintages. So: leave until 2016, say, and decant. It lasts well, is a slow-burn, muscled wine. Day 2: shows more clarity and grip, notes of citrus, olive oil, herbs. Good with pork chops and kidneys, which develop a real fundamental, earthy, local feel. 14°. Bottled Dec 2012, still under that influence somewhat. 2026-28  March 2013

2010

the robe is a thickening yellow colour. This is a true southern wine: the nose gives a sheen of white raisin, a near Muscat grapiness, and spiced seasoning, glazed fruits. It is out of step with the fresher, less abundantly ripe vintages since 2010. The palate is a full-hearted, savoury affair; it rustles up a fluid depth of smoky, simmered white fruits, the texture rich throughout. It has a red wine physique, and lengthens with a firm suppleness, as it were. The finish involves a little burnt sugar, white raisin. This will be very long-lived Vernon, and will be of great interest after 10 years. Its rich depth is more commonly associated with white Hermitage, and at least 1.5°C warmer lands, further south. Balance and strength lie in the glass; even its juice is thick, with glycerol drops. 14.5°. 2032-35  Apr 2015 Previously March 2012 ***** legs, pale yellow robe. Has a fine grain air – cooked pear, a bouquet that floats with finesse – there are ripples of pear, with a tea infusion, brioche, cooked apple nudges also present. The palate is interesting – this is a slow burn, gradual developer, has a measured intensity. It is discreet now, subtle, with its power hidden and judged nicely. It ends on tannin, in a firm, nice and complete close. Just to show that Vernon is versatile, it goes very well with a Pain Perdu (custard sponge) from Chez Thomas restaurant in Lyon, ending on lift with that. Take your time with this. Christine Vernay prefers its elegance to the solar rays of 2009, so do I. 14.5°, bottled end Jan 2012, 6 weeks ago. 2029-31 March 2012

2009

rich yellow robe; the very first stage of noble evolution has come via an air of damp wool, a classic maturing Viognier aroma, with a peach-custard flan interior, a notion of white raisins. The nose has a lovely elegant depth, mid way between the ground and the sky. The palate is rich and well-centred; the gras has a liquid quality, and it expresses spice and toasting, a smoked angle, as it ends. This is good solar wine with a little cool note through the late stages, so it works very well. Interesting, complex, and perhaps less obvious than the 2010. I prefer the 2010 by a notch or so. 14.5°. 2029-32  Apr 2015 Previously June 2011 ****(*) yellow, pear colour; the nose is comely, offers a serene pear fruit, suave bounty. There is lime and mandarin seasoning in it, that adds some snap in what is quite a weighty production. The palate is enclosed, we have a big wine here: there are plenty of layers and depth; it is oily and suave, extends completely, with no bumps in the road. The full finish resembles the attack, plus a note of firm conclusion. This needs drinking from a big glass, and fine cuisine. Offers very good Viognier pear fruit on the finish. Decant, and wait until spring 2013 or better, 2014. A solid wine, similar to a red in build. The best of it will come in its mid-life, around 2018-20. 14.5°. 2025-27 June 2011

2008

yellow robe, with legs. The nose is delicate – there is a traverse of peach fruit, with guava jelly, a note of brioche, a drift of infused tea such as tilleul (linden). The palate presents a careful run of white strawberry, an attractive liquid second half. This is a neat and trim, still young Vernon. The finish is tender, and satisfying in its roundness and small note of grip. This will live longer than expected. 13.5°. 2025-26 Apr 2015 Previously Nov 2010 ***** level yellow colour; this is good – right away, the bouquet is lovely, elegant, offers soft flan, crème patisserie, a sprinkle of spice: a really classic Condrieu nose, none of the pumped up style. Lissom, very attractive texture and flavour – there is a fine ball of pear, a little apricot, has honeyed moments late on, is really beau. It ends clearly, with shapely gras. It takes me back in time, towards the 1980s vintages, perhaps the 1983. Really lovely wine. “We had a 1982 recently, which was wonderful,” Christine Vernay. 13.5°. 2026-28 Nov 2010

2007

quiet yellow robe; baked bread, floral qualities on the nose – pear, barley sugar, a big offering. The palate is robust, with a definite, steady body of matter that runs without hitch. It ends on a nice tang of clarity. It is nowhere near ready, has retrenched, and needs approaching at the earliest in spring 2012. There are slight tannic outcrops late on, a wine that can certainly live well. 2025-27 Nov 2009 Previously Dec 2008 ***** mild yellow, a tiny opaque nature to the robe. The nose is broad and sunny, is a fat, smooth affair: there is a silken pear aroma, toasted brown sugar makes a fleeting appearance, with cooked banana and honey. The palate gas a pretty, rich start, the flavour reflecting flan and pear, almost wild white strawberry towards the finish. As usual, there is a little tannin at the end. A pretty, refined wine, with the class of frame to evolve and vary. Good, not over-imposing length. No hurry for this, but it will also be good to drink early, from mid 2009. 14°. Bottled one week ago. 2022-25 Dec 2008

2006 ()

steady yellow, pear coloured robe. The bouquet mixes wispy pear, pear tart and wax, comes with bonbon sweets, but a hovering SO2 that means it should be decanted or double decanted before drinking. It is graceful and fresh in style. The palate has interesting grip – runs on with a tight wrap – it is full at its heart. It has a cooked, brown sugar nature. Fairly tough and enclosed or reserved for now – it requires leaving until 2011. This is a big vintage from the standpoint of matter and alcohol. 2024-28 Dec 2008 Previously Jan 2008 **** the nose is reserved to the point of being withdrawn: there is latent pear, the aroma of pear near its skin, and plenty of assurance for the future. Has a well-assembled palate, the white fruits are in harmony, and there is a near silken feel to the texture. The length is good and understated. There is a definite hierarchy between the three Condrieu qualities here: this has the best cohesion and class. Up around 15° this year. 2021-24 Jan 2008

2005 ()

the yellow has gained a little depth with age, and has rich legs. The bouquet is very refined – honey/wax, with beautiful potential and class inherent: it has a “silken” air, shows really soft Italian honey, vanilla and spice. With air, it gains volume and reveals ripe pineapple and white raisin. There is a honeycomb, grippy start to the palate – there are vanilla, floral notes in this. The length is delicate, since the wine is not really out and about. It has definite, quiet muscle and a firm, reserved end – is not flamboyant today. There is a good outer casing of a firm, nutty flavour with a softness that will emerge from inside it. Wait – and this will come through – from 2011. 14°. 2027-29 Dec 2008

2004

pear-pear skin, refined and reserved bouquet - maybe a little banana, butter behind - is very classic of this wine. Elegant feel to palate, with dried fruits and a pear theme again. Carries the typical quasi-tannic, pebbly finale with a mineral leaning. Fruit flavours such as apricot, quince, greengage push forward near the end. Elegant and understated, I like its structure, length and the finesse of its richness - there is a gradual gain on weight through the palate, very much in the sequence of a red wine. A touch of late-picked fruit on the finish. From 2008-09. To 2021-24 April 2006 Previously Dec 2005 ***** classic Vernon nose - an elegant flutter of pear, very low key, subtle and harmonious, some honey. Palate also harmonious, grows through the mouth, and reveals a very softly silken texture. A near-tannic element inside the white fruit. Classy wine. Banana aftertaste. 2020-22

2003

(cask) pear with floral/almond/buttery side. Finesse wine, very rolled together, smooth. Custard, toasted end, great promise, elegant. Some licorice on finish. 2016-19

2002 ()

compact, light acacia bouquet, some depth. Pebbly white fruit, more alive than usual. Elegant towards finish, salty tang there. Light mineral/honey mix on latter part. Lesser scale than normal, but has variety of flavours. 2013-16

2001

subtle nose, pretty pear, lovely discreet elegance; good pear/dried fruit sinew; structured wine, will live and gradually develop. Good apricot, heated touch. Esp 2006-07, can live till 2015-17.

2000 ()

caramelised fruits, mineral/custard, has gone past pear/floral. Good grip on palate, very profound. Some mineral/tannin near end. Great refinement, complex, stylish. Best from 2005. 2011-13

1999 ()

suave, streamlined nose with tight reserve, even though it has been decanted. There is great variety on the nose - lime tart, spice and a striking honeycomb aroma. Tight and nutty at the start of the palate. Holds a rich, but restrained texture. Length is very good, has great style and the usual abundance of elegance. 2012-15 June 2007 Previously **** firm yellow on robe; mineral/smoky, light pineapple aroma, variety to come; tasty, generous wine, exotic fruits present. Quite potent, ends firmly - oak/heat. Greengage aftertaste. 2011-13

1998

ripe bouquet - pear/apricot, mineral/butter, first damp wool signs. Tight buttery flavour, still hidden. Dry mineral/white pepper end, clear-cut. Appealing variety. From 2004-05. 2012-14

1997 ()

open, interesting melted butter, lime/mineral aroma; dried fruit/nut start. Still quite chewy, banana aftertaste. Some residual sugar, away from other years, malo blocked so ripe was the crop.

1996

notable for being the last vintage made by Georges Vernay, this one with Christine by his side. This is doing very well, although the robe makes it appear older than it is. If you were blindfolded when drinking it, you would immediately consider it young. Has a nice, ripe gold colour. The nose is gaining a ripe pear, big caramel-butterscotch, damp wool, quince set of aromas, “aniseed,” Christine Vernay. Cooked, simmered pear fruit flavour, with an orange-tinted finale, a mixture of mandarin and marmalade. It is very soft and creamy textured, has good late grip. Its Southern Rhône fullness means it could be taken for a Roussanne Vieilles Vignes from Beaucastel – it carries the gras of the south. Excellent with a flan, crème caramel, beyond all the fancy dishes one usually recommends! This started as a vintage marked by dry and cool weather, so its acidity level was good, the ripening achieved slowly. The result is here today – a wine in fine form at 15 years of age. 2021-23 July 2011 Previously ***** latent complexity/depth on nose, pear/peach; real deep flavour, very concentrated. Great elegance. Broadens well, is long.

1995

yellow robe. There is a ripe roll of mango-pineapple, exotic fruits, apricot and dried fruits on the nose – it is an aroma of great roundness and fat, has a bit of damp wool that I associate with aged Condrieu. The palate edges out on mandarin, cool fruits, with plump gras and a finish that is still rich. This is fresh and opulent, with the texture to please – it is a wine of texture, really good. It has ace length, comes with red wine associations. It was Georges’ last vintage when working on his own. What a triumph. 13.5°. 2026-27 Oct 2016   Previously March 2000 **** bouquet ageing and showing brown sugar and very faint pear. Pear taste runs quietly though it, all in roundness. Elegant, mid-weight wine. Near perfect with a scrambled egg and truffle dish. March 2000 Previously **** floral aromas now brown sugar/pear. Soft, very elegant wine, not a big year. Quiet richness, sound length. Can expand if kept, needs patience

1994

Light floral tones on bouquet. Fair amount of definition but discreet. Has body, potential; malo not done

1992

rich, floral aromas; medium weight, fair length, is a bit subdued, as if ripeness uncertain. Refinement is main card.

1983

after two hours open, the nose becomes more tight, mineral, shows wax and pear. There’s fine juice on the palate, with elegant ease, the close attractive and fresh. I served this bottle blind to Fabrice Gripa, having stored it at the Mangevins Restaurant in Tain, where I had stored it for three years, during which the restaurant moved. Vincent had looked after it well. Fabrice thought it was Puligny about 20 years old, not 34. “What surprises me is the acidity, this is a Grand Vin on the palate. It will still be good in 10 years,” Fabrice Gripa. Nov 2017, Tain l’Hermitage Previously Dec 2014 ****** mild, attractive bright gold robe with a note of apricot. The nose gives airs of beeswax, acacia blossom, vanilla, match smoke, a dose of mineral glitter, is admirably clear. This is exotic, complex, lucid: there are dried fruits, quince, white tobacco and an attractive floral note on the palate, which is unctuous. It has lovely clear acidity, elegant length, and a very precise finish, dried herbs there. I find a leaning towards the Jura. I love the serenity and the detail – this is brilliant. At its heart lies a small ball of richness, a dab of honey. It is really persistent. “It has very good acidity, wonderful energy,” Steven Spurrier, to whom I served this blind. It is in marvellous shape still. 2021-23 on this showing! Dec 2014, London Previously Oct 2005 ****(*) yellow robe; clean, lightly minted, mineral nose along with its pear – it is compact, not straggling, and has a wee floral, spiced custard topping: it lies low, but is fine. Apricot fruit leads the palate – it rolls well, the end acidity is good. A sinewed wine with dried fruits in the flavour. It is very clean, if a little burnt on the aftertaste. Classy mineral lines its sides, and it fleshes out woards the finish. After 15 minutes and decanting, damp wool arrives on the nose, greater roundness and greater Viognier typicity also – decanting has opened it up. After 40 minutes the palate softens, and after 4 hours there is still a belle richesse in the wine. Lovely, still on form. Extraordinary. Served blind to Danish wine journalists and importers in Copenhagen – the nearest guess on age was 1999! 2013-18 Oct 2005, clear skies, high pressure, Copenhagen

1976

gold, apricot, bright robe. The nose at first verges on the amontillado and nits – but it becomes softer, brings in brioche toast, sultana, and what I always find with mature Viognier, damp wool, as expected. The palate has a rich, sustained run of mature flavour, is a great texture wine, while the finish is as clear as day – aniseed, white fruit. There is a swirl of different prompts and flavours – beeswax, dried fruits, deep-seated richness, oily appeal, and the wine has returned to next to the hill whence it came, 33 years later. It is a big, robust wine, but one delivered with not one false note. “It is young and in full life. At first we set off on a reserved nose, nut and hazelnut, now the nose is firming up. The palate is quite velvety, but there is punch in it – it isn`t at all on the decline. You sense it has had a life, a belle vie . . a plenitude of sagesse and la race (a full cup of sageness and breeding), and is serious at the same time. Very little goes a very long way,” Christine Vernay. I bought a case of this from Yapp in England when it came out in 1977; it has a wax seal, and the level was only down a little. It has moved house maybe twice, but has always been well cellared. And it GOES TO SHOW THAT THE VIOGNIER CAN AGE, even à la Catherine Deneuve. So there. It is a bigger, richer, more impressive and striking wine than the 1983 Vernon, a wine of great historical significance for me and for the Vernay family, and for the Condrieu appellation, with under 20 hectares all told at the time. It is wonderful with Christine Vernay`s Jerusalem artichoke velouté soup, the artichokes grown by her father Georges and cut today, along with the wine he made 33 years ago. How round the world can be at times. “The vivacity is impressive – it is an emotional wine for me . . I link it with my past, “ Christine Vernay. “A mythical bottle,” Paul Amsellem. Nov 2009