YVES CUILLERON, Chavanay Organic
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 philosophy.
Cornas ‘Le Village is 100% Syrah made from vines from three plots (behind Cornas village church, and in the districts of Les Cotes and Reynard), grown in granitic, terraced soils. Fermented in open, temperature-controlled vats for about 3 weeks, with regular cap-punching and pumping-over. Malolactic-fermented in barriques with native yeasts, it spends 18 months in barriques, 30% new oak. It is approachable immediately, but will easily age for up to 10 years.