We have been buying wine from Patrick and Christophe Bonnefond since the 2001 vintage, and so have watched their domaine evolve over the course of nearly a decade and a half. They own superb terroir Côte Rôtie and Condrieu, and they consistently garner scores at the top of the critics’ ranges.
Along with Hermitage, across and down the Rhône a few miles, Côte Rôtie produces the world’s greatest wines from the Syrah grape. Hermitage produces the more massive wine, Côte Rôtie the more elegant. The styles of the appellation split along the divide between the soils underlying the vines: “Côte Blonde” and its relations to the south and the “Côte Brune” family of wines to the north. The former are softer, maturing earlier; the latter, on schist, clay and iron, often require more time.
Historically the Côte Rôties of the Bonnefond brothers have shown more kinship to those of the Côte Brune, with plenty of concentration and no hurry to drink. But over the last decade, the style has softened a bit, and the wines are approachable earlier. There are three cuvées: Colline de Couzou; Côte Rozier, and Les Rochains. The first is the least powerful and the earliest to drink well, and our own cellars have more of this wine than either of the others. But the others are from the more famous vineyards, on the Côte Brune side of the appellation; and they are always big wines.
The Bonnefonds’ Condrieu is also widely sought after — indeed a wine writer once told us that Christophe could sell his entire production among the top restaurants of Lyon. Thankfully he likes a wider distribution, and his Condrieu pleases our clients year in and year out. Swirling this extraordinarily aromatic white wine in a big balloon glass as the summer sun sets is an experience every wine lover should have at least once.
The Domaine also produces two excellent but simpler wines at more modest prices: Syrah grown just outside the appellation of Côte Rôtie, and Viognier grown outside Condrieu. These wines are remarkably good values.