Andrew Guard

Côte-Rôtie & Condrieu

Pierre Bénétière is a serious man very much in the same vein as the great icons of the region, Gentaz-Dervieux, Verset, Juge, Allemand, etc. While Pierre grew up around wine it was not as the son of a vigneron, his parents did not actually produce wine, but were merchants in Condrieu selling table wines that came from Algeria to the bars and restaurants in the region - they were very succesfull! He eventually studied Enology and started his winery in 1988 by acquiring a small parcel of land in the southern end of Cote Rotie (in the lieu-dit of Cordeloux near Condrieu) and clearing and planting the vineyards himself. His first vintage was 1995 and he later added two small vineyards in Condrieu itself as well as a small parcel of old vines in the heart of the Cote Rotie appellation, right in the middle of Guigal’s famed “La Turque” what a coup..

Bénétière produces three wines from his small holdings of vineyards: two Cote Roties and a Condrieu, totaling around 800 cs a year. The Cote Rotie “Cordeloux” (first vintage 1999) comes from primarily granitic soils and is composed of 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier. The other Cote Rotie called “Dolium” comes from the Cote Brune parcel and is only produced in the best years. There are only 2 barrels produced of this wine, one of which is blended into the Cordeloux; it is 100% Syrah. Benetiére’s Condrieu comes from lieux-dits of Le Tinal - 1.5 Ha of steep terraced vineyards above Chateau Grillet - as well as 0.2 Ha in Riollement.

Since Pierre planted many of his vineyards, he feels a particularly strong affinity to the land he farms, particularly for maintaining living organisms in the soils. He converted to organic viticulture in 2003, though given the tiny size of his winery has not bothered with the official certification. Of course, given the steep terrain, all of the vineyard work including the harvest is done by hand.

For the Cote Roties, the vinification is done in a classic, old-school manner, like his mentors before him. That includes whole bunches, natural yeast fermentation, and primarily submerged cap maceration - with occasional remontage and/or delestage. New oak is around 15%, and only because he is hesitant to buy used barrels from other producers (though he did temp fate recently and bought a couple of barrels from DRC in which to age his “Dolium”). The wines see 18-22 months of aging in cask with minimal racking, only when necessary. Bottling is done without fining and filtration. For the Condrieu, the wines are pressed into mostly used 400-liter barrels where they are fermented and aged for 11 months before bottling, also without fining and filtration.

Wine collectros around the world who chase these wines know Pierre’s wines are the real deal - pure, elegantly structured, and very relective of theor terroir - a great blend of art and craft. While these wines are no longer one of the best secrets in the wine world, Pierre manages to maintain his elusive and mythological status in a world of easy access to everything and almost everyone.

Written by Andrew Guard — March 13, 2018