Described by Wine Spectator as “the leader of Condrieu’s new generation of winemakers”, Cuilleron initially trained as a engineer but, as he explains it himself, his passion drew him back to his vigneron roots. In 1987 Yves took over the family estate founded by his Grandfather in 1920. At that time the vineyards accounted to just 3.5 hectares in Condrieu and Saint-Joseph appellations. It is under Yves’ leadership that the Cuilleron estate grew to become one of the leading producers of the Northern Rhone, with 75 hectares of vineyards and approx. 430,000 bottles a year.
Today the estate’s vineyards cover several appellations: Saint-Joseph, Côte-Rôtie, Crozes-Hermitage, Saint-Péray, Cornas and Condrieu, the latter being the source of the most renowned of the Cuilleron’s wines. Sourced from 80-year old Viognier vines, these wines have received praise and impressive scores from critics for their complexity, richness and terrific concentration. Condrieu Les Chaillets and Vernon are the most prominent ones out of this stunning Viognier-based range. Les Chaillets is sourced from the best and oldest vines on the estate, on south/southeast-facing terraces overlooking Chavanay. Vernon is a single vineyard wine coming from a very steep, south-facing terraced plot in the north of the appellation, “unquestionably one of the greatest terroirs for Viognier in the world” (Jeb Dunnuck). It is a refined wine which can be drunk young but is made for laying down and can be aged for 10 years or more.
Cuilleron’s approach at the vineyard, is simple: “Grow the best possible grapes”. He practises sustainable and eco-friendly farming but prefers not to be constrained by any organic or biodynamic certification. No insecticides and only small amounts of organic fertiliser are used. Low vine vigour, leaf-thinning and green harvesting allow maximum ventilation, reduce sensitivity to disease, and improve grape quality. All the vineyard work, including harvesting, is done manually.
Ives’ winemaking philosophy is just as close to the roots. Only indigenous yeasts are used. For the reds the grapes are partially destemmed and fermented in open vats for three weeks, with the traditional cap-punching and pump-overs. For the whites, the grapes are whole-cluster pressed, the must deposit is left to settle for 24 hours, then alcoholic and malolactic fermentation are conducted directly in the barriques. The wines then undergo an ageing process in one to four year old barriques. For the whites ageing typically lasts for 9-18 months with the wines being kept on their lees and stirred regularly.