History of Domaine Cuilleron
Dating back to 1920, and three generations ago, the domaine of Yves Cuilleron was founded in the Northern Rhone Valley in the hamlet of Verlieu, part of the town of Chavanay, by Yves Cuilleron’s paternal grandfather Claude. Twenty-seven years later, Claude bottled his first wine for the consumer market, beginning the legacy of Cuilleron’s wines in the Northern Rhone Valley. The first domaine bottling was in 1947 and labeled “Vin de Chavanay”, a blend of Viognier and Syrah, as the Saint-Joseph appellation did not exist, and Chavanay was not part of the Condrieu appellation yet.
In 1960, Yves’ uncle, Antoine Cuilleron became estate manager, passing it down to Yves in 1987. After initially training as a mechanical engineer, Yves decided that the family wine business was for him. After training for a year at Ecole Viticole in Macon he took over the 3.5 hectare estate in Condrieu and Saint-Joseph. Yves decided to expand the domaine’s holdings, and in 1989 acquired the Domaine’s first holdings in Cote-Rotie. While expanding his vineyard holdings, he also created a negociant business, “Les Vins de Vienne”, with other legendary Rhone winemakers, Pierre Gaillard and and Francois Villard in 1996. Described by Wine Spectator as “the leader of Condrieu’s new generation of wine makers,” Yves Cuilleron now has holdings in the appellations of Saint-Peray, Cornas, and Crozes-Hermitage as well. Yves is personally involved with each step of production as, “Passion without exigency is not enough.” Thus, from vine to bottling, he brings life and individuality to the chateau’s wines produced from the Northern Rhone varietals of Viognier, Roussane, Marsanne and Syrah.
Vineyards and Viticulture
The Northern Rhone Valley has been shaped by the Rhone River. As this source of life carves its way into the land, the Rhone Valley becomes a collection of narrow gorges, sheer slopes, and steep terraces. A variety of soil types, ranging from granitic and schistous in the steep slopes of Cote-Rotie and Hermitage, the powdery, decomposed mica (arzelle) found in Condrieu and to the heavier clay found in Saint-Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Peray, wines in different appellations have a unique sense of place. With this unique geography, distinct microclimates, and various soil types, wines from this region have a distinct expression of terroir. Add differences in wine making style to the mix and you are left with a wealth of artistic expression to discover in the Northern Rhone, and Yves Cuilleron is at the forefront of that discovery.
Yves Cuilleron’s winery is located in Chavanay, a village south of Condrieu in the Northern Rhone Valley. As of 2012, Yves Cuilleron’s domaine is significantly larger in scope, with 52 hectares of vineyards that cover multiple appellations. They have holdings in Condrieu (La Cote, Izeras, Vernon, Eyguets), Cote Rotie (Coteaux de Semons, Rochains, Rozier, Vialliere), Saint-Joseph (Vessettes, La Ruty, Verlieux, Eyguets, Le Pecher), Crozes-Hermitage, Cornas, Saint-Peray, and a series of Vin de Pays from the Collines Rhodaniennes.
The vineyards are largely positioned on terraces, which make it difficult to mechanize labor, and most of the vineyard work is done by hand. Managing vigor is important to Yves Cuilleron, as he controls yields by extensive de-budding, and when necessary, practices a ‘green harvest’, a form of crop thinning which includes the dropping of green clusters from the vine. Green harvesting allows the remaining grape clusters to fully ripen according to Cuilleron’s aims.
Winemaking and Vinification
Yves Cuilleron’s Northern Rhone wines are bold and modern in personality. Harvesting his white grapes later than most, Yves will wait for a small amount of botrytis to develop if the vintage allows it. White grapes are whole-cluster pressed, barrel-fermented in one-quarter new oak and aged nine months in contact with the lees with frequent batonnage.
The red are partially destemmed, vinified in stainless steel with frequent remontage (pump over) and pigeage (traditional grape stomping), and aged 18-20 months in barriques. Some new oak is used for specific Cote Rotie cuvees.
Grape Varieties and Styles
Producing wine from the varietals of Viognier, Marsanne, Rousanne and Syrah, Yves Cuilleron aims to create a distinct sense of place and style for the Northern Rhone Valley. His wines have depth, character and power, and display a modern expression of wines from the region. Invested in every step of the winemaking process, from vine planting to wine bottling, Yves Cuilleron cares deeply about making world class wines from the Northern Rhone, and his wines display an exquisite example of this pride in their quality. Wanting a wine that represents the terroir and vintage, but also that has its own original character, Cuilleron prefers parcel-based vinification, separates older and younger vines, and only blends his cuvees if they are substantially similar.