André Perret Condrieu Chéry 2004
It is not that long ago that I read a post on a bulletin board, or internet forum, or whatever they're called, posing the question "When was the last time you drank a wine that really wowed you"? I pondered for some time over my answer, before concluding it had actually been a very, very long time. The problem is that once you are past the discovery phase (some people might argue that this is a phase that never ends, and I have a certain sympathy - and perhaps a little jealousy - with that point of view) you pretty much know what to expect from a Bordeaux, or a Burgundy, or a Champagne, and so on. It is only the sheer quality of the wine that excites, and as the familiarity with the regions and their wines increases, the quality bar is raised, and experiences that would once have been treasured and exalted become perhaps not mundane, but certainly less extraordinary.
Even tasting numerous vintages of Château Margaux last week there was ne'er a quiver of excitement running through my body. Yes, several of the wines were fabulous, but I expected that. Yes, the 1996 showed a beautiful combination of finesse, structure and concentration and will one day be simply exquisite, but I expected that too. And all the Bordeaux 2003s sampled over the same weekend (over a dozen) tasted the same, with their confit fruit and wall of tannin. I began to feel a little jaded.
Then, last week, a moment of joy. There was a call for a dry white to accompany dinner, and I happened to be sipping a 2005 Spätlese at the time. I didn't really have anything to hand. Oh, I thought, but what about the André Perret Condrieu Coteau du Chéry 2004, a new arrival to my cellar, that I popped into the fridge a couple of weeks ago, with the intention of tasting soon? Let's open that. So I pulled the cork.
This is just about the perfect wine. OK, no wine is really perfect, and in fact defining perfection is fraught with philosophical debate, but if there has ever existed a perfect bottle of Condrieu then this might just be it. If there is a wine neophyte who wants to experience Viognier at its apogee, then this is it. If there is a naysayer who questions the worth of this tiny Northern Rhône appellation, and the expensive bottles it yields, then this is the one to change their mind. The nose is just pure essence of Viognier, not in a fat and flabby style, rather a taut, delineated insistence, with fabulous pine kernel and pear fruit character on the nose just singing out with joy. And the palate does not disappoint. The difficulty with Viognier is that it is too easy to run to a fat, opulent, low acid style as a result of high sugar content in the berries as the vigneron awaited physiological ripeness. No such problem here, the palate showing just a little fatness through the midpalate, but always backed up by a grippy, bitter-edged structure. Delicious quinine flavour, with a little stone fruit, in a very incisive style. An absolute classic, benchmark Condrieu which displays typicité, precision and panache all rolled into one. This wine speaks volumes to me. This is why I enjoy wine so much, and it takes me back to all the joy I experienced when I started out drinking and tasting wine. The 2005 Spätlese was, I'm afraid, subsequently ignored as I couldn't leave this wine alone. If you can get some, you must. 19/20 (12/12/06)