Pierre Bénétière is a self-made man and staunch Northern Rhône traditionalist cut from the mold of the great icons of the region: Gentaz-Dervieux, Verset, Juge, Allemand, etc. While Pierre grew up in a wine family, his parents did not actually produce wine, but were merchants in Condrieu selling local table wines to the bars and restaurants in the area. He eventually studied Enology and started his winery in the late 1980s by acquiring a small parcel of land in the southern end of Côte Rôtie (in the lieu-dit of Cordeloux near Condrieu) and clearing and planting the vineyards himself. He later added two small vineyards in Condrieu itself as well as a small parcel of old vines in the heart of the Côte Rôtie appellation, on the Cote Brune and right in the middle of Guigal’s famed “La Turque”!
Bénétière produces three wines from his small holdings of vineyards: two Cote Roties and a Condrieu, totaling around 800 cases a year. The Côte Rôtie “Cordeloux” comes from primarily granitic soils. The other Côte Rôtie called “Dolium” comes from the Côte 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. Benetiére’s Condrieu comes from the 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, especially 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 Côte Rôties, the vinification is done in a classic, old-school manner, like his mentors before him. That includes no de-stemming, 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 buy 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 or 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 or filtration.
Stylistically, the wines are uber-classic. The reds, as you would expect are deep, dark and brooding, oozing minerals, black fruits and lovely floral notes (5% Viognier in the blend). On the palate, the wines are dense and muscular but with good freshness. The Condrieu is nicely phenolic in texture and avoids the cloying quality that one often finds in this appellation. The richness of the wine is nicely balanced with an underlying acidity (he is clearly picking on the early side).