Maison Les Alexandrins Condrieu Blanc 2016
I will always remember my first Viognier. It smelled like perfume—no, not perfume actually, but cheap drugstore Eau de Toilette, and it tasted about the same. On the palate it was a jumble of stargazer lily, tuberose and lilac with a vague hint of citrus thrown in so you knew it was wine. I spent the next several years actively avoiding Viognier at wine bars and restaurants, even if it came highly recommended by the proprietor or sommelier. Over time my firm stance has ssoftened considerably, and I have had many good Viogniers from France, California, Virginia, South Africa, and Israel. Sometimes I am even the one trying to convince a reluctant friend to try a glass over objections that all Viogniers are too flowery.
We are both glad that I didn’t let my early disappointment with Viognier scar me for life. It would be as if I’d gotten my heart broken in seventh grade and decided I could never love again. If that were the case, I could not have fallen in love with the bottle of Maison Les Alexandrins Condrieu Blanc 2016 that we opened with dinner earlier this week. This 100% Viognier has a nose of caramelized pineapple, orange blossom, and wet river rocks. It is generous on the palate with flavors of peach, lemon curd and soft hints of jasmine with a strong mineral backbone and a lean, crisp finish. In short, it is simply gorgeous.
The Maison Les Alexandrins Condrieu Blanc 2016 had a touch of florality in the bouquet—that orange blossom note—that just barely crossed over to the palate. We enjoyed it with a fresh farm stand tomato salad followed by cavatappi with homemade pesto, and its fruit-forward flavors made it a good accompaniment to simple summer produce. We could also see drinking it with fried chicken, lobster, and when the weather turns cold, fondue.
We know that sometimes wine labels can be confusing, especially from European wine regions which emphasize the appellation—in this case, Condrieu AOC—over the grape, which is Viognier. Condrieu is a small region in the northern part of the Rhône Valley. There are only 420 acres of grapes planted here, all of it Viognier, which makes sense because wines from here must be 100% Viognier. So while other white Rhône wines may be Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc or a blend that includes Viognier, if the label reads Condrieu, you know the wine inside is Viognier. The entire region is just 12 miles long, running on steep hillsides on the eastern bank of the Rhône River. It takes its name from the French term coin de ruisseau, meaning corner of the stream.