It is regarded as the oldest wine maker still in activity in the northern Rhône Valley. Vidal-Fleury was founded in 1781 and quickly earned a reputation abroad. These wines have found their leading export market, the United States, with its first contact being with the American statesman and third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson back in 1787 when he was the ambassador of the United States to France. After the phylloxera epidemic in the 19th century the vineyard was replanted with American rootstock. It is one of the emblematic houses of Côte-Rôtie, one of the great wines produced in the northern Rhône. The house undertakes every stage in the wine-making process from harvesting its own vineyards to the vinification, aging, bottling and cellaring or aging in the bottle. The house became the property of the Guigal family in 1984 which had already had a historic association with the Vidal-Fleury family. The house has been under the direction of Antoine Dupré since January of 2021.
The house incorporates all of the major regional grape varieties into the host of wines it makes ranging from the Syrah to the Viognier, Marsanne and Roussane meanwhile for the wines it produces in the southern reaches of the Rhône Valley — the delectable Châteauneuf- du-Papes, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Tavels, Cairannes, Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, Côtes-du-Rhône, Ventoux and the Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise au sud — Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre for the reds and Viognier, Grenache blanc, Clairette and Roussanne for the white.
The Gourmet Gazette,which is particularly fond of the wines of the Rhône Valley recently tasted a number of Vidal-Fleury’s wines emanating from the northern part of the Rhône Valley in the presence of Antoine Dupré, the director of the house. These are emblematic and noble wines: Côte-Rôtie, Condrieu, Saint-Joseph, Cornas, Hermitage et Crozes-Hermitage
A Gourmet Gazette Slide Show of some of the white wines of the northern Rhône Valley from Vidal-Fleury. Photos courtesy Vidal-Fleury. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette
The Crozes-Hermitage white 2020 was smooth and suave no doubt because of its blend of 95% Marsanne and 5% of Roussane grape varieties grown at an altitude of between 150 to 300 meters. Dry and fresh it is best to enjoy it when it is thee-years old and it works as both a cocktail hour wine, and at the table with seafood and with some cheeses (white wines are becoming popular in France with the cheese course) like Cantal or Gruyère. Meanwhile two Crozes-Hermitage reds were on the agenda made from a single grape variety, the Syrah. The 2019 version was pure and spicy while the 2020 version needs a few more years in the bottle but holds enormous promise. The Crozes-Hermitage reds are optimal when they are about eight-years-old. These are ideal with red meat, game birds and pungent cheeses.
A Gourmet Gazette Slide Show of the red wines of the northern Rhône Valley from Vidal-Fleury. Photos courtesy Vidal-Fleury. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette
The house’s Saint-Joseph white 2020 was a pure delight with its blend of Marsanne and Roussane grape varieties. Best time for enjoying this wine is when it has reached a maximum age of four years, it was still a little young but the enormous potential was palpable. It goes well with fish dishes prepared in a sauce, pork or a wedge or two of Camembert cheese. The Saint Joseph red 2018 was perfectly smooth with its single grape variety being the Syrah grown in a soil of granite and schist. This wine can be cellared for up to 10 years and needs to be opened two hours before serving time, at least.
Other whites on the tasting programme were the Saint-Péray 2020, a new wine made entirely with the Marsanne grape variety from vineyards on the right bank of the Rhone River. It has a special aging process with 30% of the grapes being aged in oak casks and 70% in Inox. This is a delicious wine perfect as an aperitif but also fine with fish and local cheeses. The Condrieu 2019 was an absolute marvel. Made solely from the Viognier grape variety, grown on the southern slopes of the vineyard, well protected from the winds of the North and the West. This wine is a classic with scallops or fish in a lemon-based sauce. We enjoyed it as an aperitif.
The litany of reds continued with a Cornas 2018, a serious dining wine made from the heady Syrah variety. This wine can be aged in the bottle for up to 15 years and should be opened at least two hours before drinking it with grilled meats, game or fish in a red wine sauce. Vidal-Fleury is well-known for its Côte-Rotie wines and the Côte-Rotie Brune & Blonde 2018 was a particular stand-out. This wine comes from the oldest part of the Vidal-Fleury vineyards, those that were already in existence in 1781. The grape varieties, 95% Syrah with 5% Viognier grow on a thin layer of granite soil stabilized by the vineyard’s walls. This wine is cellared in bottles for six months before being delivered. The house’s Côte-Rotie Côte Blonde 2016, La Chatillonne Vidal Fleury which has an eastern exposure is named for the parcel of the vineyard the grapes are grown in Chatillonne, also one of the progianl parcels dating from 1781. The wine is a blend of 88% Syrah and 12% Viognier and is a wonderful wine of which only 3,000 bottles were produced.
©Trish Valicenti for the The Gourmet Gazette