Pierre Gaillard Condrieu 2012
Many people, in my experience, are fascinated by identical twins. You only have to browse a few 'news' websites to find stories of long-lost identical siblings who meet by chance (imagine recognising yourself in the street!), or stories of pairs of twins who marry and who end up having yet more twins themselves. Such an event seems hardly newsworthy to me, as identical twinning undoubtedly has a genetic basis, but the stories are out there, each one a little curio which exists to titillate our undeniable curiosity regarding mirror-image human beings.
Being a father of twins this fascination was evident to me many years ago when I visited an older relative, newborn twins in tow. Great aunts and other women with whom I share tenuous genetic links cooed over the new arrivals. One of the first questions I fielded was the rather naive "are they identical?" to which I replied they were not. I wasn't expecting the follow-up "how can you tell?"; I can only suppose that the old matriarch who had thrown out the question must have thought of identical twins as merely two siblings who looked vaguely similar, rather than being exact genetic matches. My reply that it was very easy to tell the difference if you looked inside their respective nappies - one of my twins is a girl, the other a boy - brought a comedic look of realisation to her face which still, fourteen years later, brings a smile to my face.
Identical twins are of course great sources of comic mishap and misadventure. The original exponent of this ruse seems to have been Titus Maccius Plautus, a Roman playwright who is widely regarded as having first brought the concept of mistaken identity in twins and the convoluted downstream comedy that results to the stage in Menaechmi. In this play the twins Menaechmus and Sosicles, having been separated in early life, later find themselves living in the same town, each one unaware of the other's proximity. Mayhem ensues, as the other characters - not only their slaves, maids and servants but also the tellingly-named Erotium, the friendly prostitute who just happens to live next-door - naturally confuse one for the other. If it all sounds a little familiar, it is of course a stock plot that his been employed many times since, not least by Shakespeare in The Comedy of Errors.
Grape varieties can also be the cause of mistaken identity. Sometimes they sing loud and clear, telling you of their presence and identity quite plainly. At other times, however, they seem ready to dress themselves up as another variety, even if only temporarily, perhaps more akin to Viola and Sebastien in Twelfth Night, yet another of Shakespeare's twin-based plots, than to Menaechmus and Sosicles. I am sure there are many 'pairs' of closely-related grapes that mimic one another, but the most recent example to cross my lips concerns a Viognier which, when poured fresh from the bottle, would have had blind tasters plumping for Gewurztraminer in an instant. And yet these two varieties are far from twins. Indeed, each could barely call the other a sibling; Viognier is an offspring of Mondeuse Blanche, a variety now associated most with Savoie but which certainly has Rhône connections, as it is also one of the parents of Syrah. Gewurztraminer, meanwhile, is a pink-skinned mutation of Traminer, perhaps better known, I think, as Savagnin (not the same as Sauvignon Blanc, note), and today it is most readily associated with the famous Vin Jaune of the Jura.
All the same, pull the cork on a bottle of 2012 Condrieu from Pierre Gaillard and what you first sense is certainly more reminiscent of Gewurztraminer than Viognier. As an entrée it serves up scents of lychee and rose petal, both of which make me think of Alsace far more than the vineyards on the steep upper slopes of the Rhône. What is perhaps more notable, and which contributes more to the pleasure of the wine, is the finely defined character these aromas have, framed as they are by hints of spring flowers and lightly mineral, flinty hints. This latter note in particular seems very classy and characterful bearing in mind that Viognier can tend towards the leaden. Not here though, and with more time in the glass it begins to show aromas I would more readily associate with the variety in question, including notes of peach skin, pithy fruit, and pine kernel, and memories of lychee and rose soon fade into the distance. On the palate it also seems more as we should expect, with a gentle flesh, aromatic as per the nose, with peachy Viognier fruit. Importantly, it has a good grip to it, a light minerality and some appealing acidity too, and it seems very fresh as a result. I would even go so far as to describe some tension in this wine, which is not something you see in Viognier everyday. Despite my initial misgivings and varietal confusion, this is an exceptionally good wine which should keep Condrieu fans happy, and would probably do something to silence critics of this variety and appellation as well. It is an aromatic delight which I would certainly recommend to all. Just don't pour it for your twin sister, when she is dressed as a boy, because she needs to impress the prostitute who lives next door, who is in fact in love with you. No good will come of it, mark my words. 17.5/20 (18/3/13)
This wine was an en primeur sample from Bancroft Wines, and costs about £20 per bottle in bond.