Viognier 2001 Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes, Domaine Cuilleron

Condrieu can be delicious, right? Perhaps the most self-indulgent dry white wine – and in my view the exception that proves the rule that the most expensive bottles in most wine stores are the least ready to drink. But there's the rub. Condrieu, good or not so good, is invariably expensive.

Here's a wine made by arguably the master of Condrieu, and it tastes just like a Condrieu. It has that heady dried-apricot-and-may-blossom scent but is also remarkably dense, full and dry (not like a typical Viognier Vin de Pays d'Oc or inexpensive varietal Viognier that is all specious perfume and sweetness). I wrote: 'Full, correct, opulent and yet sufficient acidity. Difficult to spit.' And yet, instead of costing £20 / $30 dollars, it is just $12.99 from Martin's Wine Cellar in New Orleans, or (an admittedly rather steeper) £10.95 from Swig, Wimbledon Wine Cellar, Shaftesbury Fine Wines.

The reason it is so much cheaper than Condrieu is that it is grown just outside the Condrieu appellation vineyards round the village of Chavanay south of Château Grillet (when was the last time you tasted a delicious example of this latter wine?). About 8000 bottles of this 'mere' Vin de Pays are made – much fewer than Cuilleron's La Petite Côte or Les Chaillets – and I would heartily commend it for quite grand entertaining. This is the sort of first course wine that attracts rave reviews from old hands and neophytes alike.

To find out more visit the superior 11/11/03