By Alexandria Rae Cubbage, 21 April 2020
This domaine is most famous for its Condrieu. Georges Vernay’s commitment to Condrieu is so strong that he literally saved the appellation from extinction. We have all three of his top wines from Condrieu – ‘Coteau de Vernon’, ‘Les Chaillées de l’Enfer’ and ‘Terrasses de l’Empire’.
The ‘Coteau de Vernon’ represents the oldest plantings of Viognier as the vines are between 50 and 80 years old, and the vineyard is 2 hectares of vines grown on granite and biotite soils. The minerality and age of the vines offer complexity and intensity that comes through in the wine.
‘Les Chaillées de l’Enfer’ translates to “Terraces of hell” owing to the stone walls that form terraces for the plot and because this area can capture intense heat. It’s made up of vines that are 50+ years old and some date back to 1957. ‘Les Chaillées de l’Enfer’ also offers a pure expression of Condrieu but with less intensity and minerality than the ‘Coteau de Vernon’.
‘Terrasses de l’Empire’ is made from small plots on the steep hillsides surrounding Condrieu, and the average age of the vines are 35 years old. This wine tends to show the most exuberant fruit expression of the three. If you are looking for an easy-drinking and aromatic wine with pretty floral and peach aromas and flavours, this wine is a good bet.
When daughter Christine took over after her father, Georges, retired in 1996, she started placing more emphasis on improving the reds. She wants elegance and finesse in her reds, so her practices in the vineyards and in the winery are with those goals in mind.
The ‘Maison Rouge’ comes from a 2-hectare plot located at the southern part of the Côte-Rôtie appellation. The average age of the vines is 50 years old; they grow in sandy, granite soil on steep hillsides. This wine is 100% Syrah, and the fermentation takes place in oak vats. After fermentation, the wine goes into barrel, 30% of which are new, for 24 months. Annual production is approximately 15,000 bottles per year.
The ‘Blonde du Seigneur’ is a contrast to the ‘Maison Rouge’ and highlights the violet perfumed and more elegant side of Côte-Rôtie. The average age of the vines is 30 years old. For the winemaking, the grapes are fermented in stainless steel vats to preserve the delicate fruit aromas. They blend in 8% Viognier which is what gives the wine a sense of softness. Then, the wine is aged for a minimum of 18 months in barrel of which 25% of the barrels are new. Annual production is approximately 15,000 bottles per year.
The wines of Domaine Georges Vernay are produced by a family with a deep history and commitment to Condrieu and Côte-Rôtie. Most of the wines are from older vines, so the flavours are complex, deep and concentrated. And while this domaine used to be known exclusively for their whites, now more and more under Christine’s thoughtful direction and expertise, the reds are gaining attention.