A Gourmet Gazette Fine Wine Find: Courting the Côte du Rhône with Christophe Pichon
It is one of those great family affairs that one finds in France. The estate of Christophe Pichon Father & Son in the northern reaches of the Rhône Valley on the right bank of the mighty river, produces some of the finest red and white wines of this prestigious wine-growing region. These are the mythical Côte du Rhône wines, Condrieu, Côte Rôtie, Saint-Joseph and Cornas whose grapes are grown and harvested by the Pichon family — Christophe, Corentin, Isabelle and Alexis — over 23 hectares. The Gourmet Gazette took in a recent tasting of a fine range of Rhone Valley wines from the house. And the family is expecting that the 2021 harvest will prove to be a vintage year for the white wines, especially for the Condrieu.
Condrieu rarely makes it to the export market which is a shame. This robust and flavorful wine is made exclusively with he Viognier grape variety which gives it its spicy taste. The house of Pichon produces a host of these fragrant wines all bearing the AOP designated region of origin label, rating from the delicious Pur 100 2020 AOP which is vinified without additional sulphates and is purely delicious. The Condrieu Sec 2020 AOP, a Condrieu Villages, born from the schist earth that the vine plants evolve in offers a powerful taste. Meanwhile the house also produces two AOP Condrieus that emanate from granite dominated earth. One is the house’s first vintage the Roche Coulante 2019 – AOP Condrieu and the highly complex Caresse 2019 – AOP Condrieu. An astonishing late harvest Condrieu, the Patience 2018 – AOP Condrieu, whose harvest can last until the end of November, provided a rousing, resourceful and delightfully sweet, but not too sweet end to the tasting.
The house’s Saint-Joseph 2020 white wine, a somewhat hard to find wine, was delicious with a crisp taste imparted upon it by the granite soil that the Marsanne and Roussane grapes grow in. We also enjoyed a young Saint-Joseph red wine made exclusively with the Syrah grape variety, a grape variety that the house takes great pride in growing. The vineyard is planted in terraces on steep hillsides in soil that is essentially granitic. The house’s white Saint-Joseph wines are elaborated with the Marsanne and Roussane grape varieties. Once known as the Vin de Mauves named for the small village on the banks of the Rhône, the Czars of Russia were among those to appreciate it, contributing to its fame. But Charlemagne, too, was a a noteworthy admirers of the wine that was christened Saint-Joseph in the 16th century by the monks took over the cultivation of the vineyard.
The splendid Côte-Rôtie wines evolve from grapes grown in the most northern part of the Rhone Valley. It is a vineyard that dates back to the Romans. The Pichon family elaborates their Côte-Rotie wines mainly with the Syrah grape variety but we also tasted the Promesse 2019 AOP Côte-Rôtie which adds 10% of the liquid from the Viognier variety making for a nicely balanced smooth wine. Meanwhile the Tupin et Semons 2020 -Côte Rôtie, named for the two villages from which the grapes emanate, offered up a wine to serve with game and hearty meat dishes. It will be available in February. But the sun-drenched La Comtesse En Cote Blonde 2019, named for the parcel of the vineyard, the Comtesse, and the place name Cote Blonde, turned out to be an astounding journey.
The house is also actively working to revive the ancient vineyard of Seyssuel, which dates back to the Romans and was regularly written up by Pliny the Elder, the Roman writer and naturalist who frequently wrote up the wines of the tiny region of Seyssuel and the Pichon family has just brought out its Mosaïque 2020 VDP Seyssuel which is on its way to becoming an AOP designated label of origin wine. VDP wines are protected wine regions.
©Trish Valicenti for The Gourmet Gazette
The estate welcomes visitors by appointment.
Domaine Christophe Pichon
36, le Grand Val, 42 410 Chavanay, France
+33 (0)4 74 87 06 78