Homepage / History

22 centuries and generations of excellence

Histoire Condrieu AOP mobile

A famous wine since Antiquity

In the 1st century BC, the Allobroges Celts living in the northern Rhône valley cultivated vineyards around the town of Vienne under Roman rule. Plutarch and other ancient writers were already praising the quality of the wine. n the Middle Ages, the vineyards expanded under the management of the Church. The Archbishop of Lyon granted Condrieu the privilege of harvesting as much grapes as it wanted.

A reputation that has stood the test of time

The Popes of Avignon much appreciated the wines from Condrieu and, in the 16th century, the Lyon Chapter used to serve them to its distinguished guests. Little by little, the local growers took control of the vineyards. By the 17th century, Condrieu’s reputation was well-established throughout France and mentioned by illustrious figures such as Boileau and Pascal. Condrieu wine was recognised as a quality product and was particularly popular in Paris where it was consumed by the bourgeoisie.

A golden age, followed by dark years

At the turn of the 19th century, the village of Condrieu alone boasted 142 hectares of vines. The first records of bottling date back to the middle of the century when the wines started being transported to Saint-Etienne and Lyon with the development of the railways. After a warning shot of powdery mildew, the 1870s were years submerged by a wave of phylloxera, which decimated the vineyards. It took 20 years to replant them using grafted vines and to restore the yields.

The creation of the AOC and the decline of the vineyards

Up until this point in its history, Condrieu had been produced as a sweet wine and its grapes often harvested around All Saints’ Day. At the turn of the 20th century, the dry wines began to appear. However, the vineyards were then gradually abandoned as a result of the First World War and the workforce was absorbed into market gardening, arboriculture and the development of industry in the Rhône Valley. But winegrowing held out and the Condrieu AOC was created on 27 April 1940, covering the communes of Condrieu, Vérin and Saint-Michel-sur-Rhône. The Syndicat des Vignerons (wine producers’ union) was founded in that same year, and the tradition of excellence continued: Curnonsky, the “prince of gastronomy”, referred to Condrieu as being one of the finest wines in France.

On the brink of disappearance, a renaissance

Despite an expansion to include the communes of Chavanay, Saint-Pierre-de-Bœuf, Malleval and Limony in 1967, the appellation was losing ground and was on the verge of extinction. In a report written in 1975, a student even asked the question “Is Viognier doomed?. By 1978, there were only 8 hectares of vines left!

However, in the 1980s, the vineyards underwent a renaissance thanks to the determination of a small group of wine producers. Wine production became more professional, new wine domaines appeared, gastronomic wines became fashionable, the abandoned hillsides were replanted, and the chayées/chaillées (narrow terraces) were rebuilt…

The Condrieu appellation was back!

The turning point in 1986

That year, faced with more and more requests for planting, and to improve the quality of the wines, the Condrieu wine producers undertook a final revision of the appellation area in agreement with the INAO.

All the vineyards located above an altitude of 300 metres were excluded. A third of the area was therefore withdrawn from the AOC, leaving only the best-exposed hillsides, where the Viognier grape ripens best. After this revision, the AOP covered a total of 262 hectares.

The recognition and challenges of the 21st century

Condrieu wines have gained international renown, collecting accolades and being sold all over the world. New wineries were built and wine tourism started to develop. The winegrowing practices are starting to adapt in response to climate change.

The Condrieu wine producers have a long history of working in harmony with nature, coping well with unexpected events and overcoming crises. They are well-placed to meet whatever challenges the future may bring.