YVES CUILLERON, Chavannay
Yves Cuilleron initially worked as an engineer before being hit by the wine bug at age 26. He went to train at Ecole Viticole of Macon for a year then came back home, at the foot of Condrieu and Côte Rotie’s hills and took over the family’s 3.5-ha estate.
Vineyards here are steep. The topography demands farmers perform most labour by hand, a happy example of geography creating the necessity to do things correctly in the vineyard. And for the area of the northern Rhone surrounding Cuilleron’s domaine, perhaps the 1800s were better times. Over the course of the 20th century the great AOCs of this area were nearly relegated to historical footnote status, names that wine lovers knew but never had the opportunity to taste. As prices for local wines rise, the situation is changing again and this time for the better, but for most of the last century the lure of an easier suburban life in Lyon or Vienne led much of the population from these fields, and landowners that remained often sold large parcels in the area to developers for vacation homes. The famously steep terraces that line the Rhone fell into disrepair, and often disappeared back into the bramble. So the return of Yves Cuilleron to resuscitate his uncle’s farm is not only significant for a single individual or
domaine. His efforts to return the region’s wines to global prominence will save the area’s vineyards from fading back into the hills and help to breathe life back into Condrieu, Côte-Rotie, and other corners of the northern Rhone.
Cuilleron is one of a scant handful of growers who have allowed for a modern flowering of quality viticulture in an ancient, important land.
Yves’ viticulture methods are very personal, rejecting systematically off-the-shelves ideas, he is neither a conventional, organic nor biodynamic grower. Lutte raisonnée with a constant observation and adaptation to the climatic, topographic and vegetation growth conditions could describe his philosphy.
In 2006 Yves has fulfilled one of his long time ambition by purchasing 0.6 ha of old vines in Cornas (some of them 90 years old) and the first release of which we got few cases is quite impressive.
Côte Rôtie Bassenon is a 1.5 ha, south-facing terraced, Syrah and Viognier (10%) vineyard on Côteau de Semons, in Tupin-Semons commune. “Bassenon” refers to the stream at the foot of the hill. The soils are composed of granit and gneiss. The wine spends 18 months in barrels before bottling. Bright ruby, powerfully scented, appealing bouquet of fresh red berries, minerals and fresh flowers; this was aged in 50% new oak but it is not noticeable today. Impressively sweet but balanced, with tangy mineral lift, silky tannins and a late liquorice note.