From the Rhône upstarts that Robert Parker deemed “on fire qualitatively for the last five or six years” comes this mouthwatering, unoaked white—the perfect $20 aperitif wine. Lighter, crisper, and more precise than your typical weeknight Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio, touched with honeycomb, this Côte du Rhône blanc offers a mineral sophistication that punches way above its weight class.
Winemaker Baptiste Grangeon “has been on a roll over the past decade” says Rhône authority Jeb Dunnuck, writing: “These are ripe, powerful wines that never lose their Southern Rhône soul, and if anything, these latest 2016s and 2017s are more reserved and elegant than past vintages." Allocations of the Viognier-based white Rhône from 30-year-old vines are scarce in the States, yet it’s already developed a following.
We first met Domaine de Cristia owner and winemaker Baptiste Grangeon last March while tasting through a series of Châteauneuf-du-Pape line-ups. Expectations were high—both Robert Parker and Jeb Dunnuck had been singing Grangeon’s praises as a major new Rhône player who was not to be missed. The plaudits were merited: the Châteauneuf’s were spectacular, the highlight of our trip. But on the other end of Cristia’s spectrum was a bottle we found just as captivating for the price—the Côte du Rhône Blanc, a refreshing blend of white Rhône grapes whose steely acidity and concentration cry out for oysters and paté at 5 p.m.
Baptiste and his sister Dominique Florent are third-generation winemakers who inherited the craft and land from their grandfather Etienne. The family started out in 1942 with just a few plots of Grenache. Etienne’s son Alain began expanding the holdings and gradually bottling some of the production.
In 1999, Baptiste and Dominique joined their father and took a leading role. They began releasing wine under their own domaine name and introducing biodynamic winemaking methods, becoming certified as organic in 2008. The fantastic leaps and bounds in quality led Robert Parker to declare: “Domaine de Cristia has come on like gangbusters over the last decade” and that “young proprietors Dominique and Baptiste Grangeon are among the up-and-coming stars in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.”
The 2017 Côte du Rhône Blanc is a singular mix of Viognier and Grenache Blanc, with fruit culled from 30-year-old vines spidering deep into clay soils. The wine only saw stainless steel tanks, preserving its electric acidity and clean peach and stone fruit notes, making it the perfect antidote to mediocre Pinot Grigio.