LOUIS SOZET, game as a pebble, is the oldest working vigneron at Cornas. He will be 80 on 22 April this year. He now has 0.85 hectare and sells part of his crop to CHAPOUTIER, vinifying enough to give 400 bottles, many of which he sells at the MARCHÉ DE CORNAS in December each year.
Louis was doing his military service in Algeria when news reached him of his father JEAN’s sudden death from a brain clot in 1958 – “he was misdiagnosed, and went in three days,” recalls Louis. I served my final month with the regiment, then started full time on the vineyards (3 hectares in those days). I had worked with him since I was a boy, so got straight on with it.”
Louis worked two hectares for most of his life, the wine his sole source of income; he now rents out vineyards to the talented STÉPHANE ROBERT of DOMAINE DU TUNNEL, based at SAINT-PÉRAY. His two sites are EYGAS and CHAMPELROSE, both well placed. He describes the average age of his vineyard now as 35 years.
He has three nephews, FLORENT, MARTIN and ROMAIN, and a niece, OLIVIA, who will start a CORNAS under the title LES ENFANTS DE BERNARD SOZET in 2016, so the name will carry on.
His vinification is based on the classic Cornasien habit of whole bunch crop; until two years ago the wine was raised in a mix of used 228-litre pieces and 550-litre demi-muids. Since 2013 he has raised it in stainless steel, cutting back from 18 months to 10-12 months.
Louis’ 2013 is *** wine, and I say “chapeau” to him, someone I have often seen when visiting Cornas. His tenacity fits the rugged countryside perfectly.
His last word comes on the sudden, rapid expansion of the Cornas vineyards, especially in the high zones way away from the village. “I see a lot of planting now, without reason, clearing scrubland. People have to be reasonable. Experiments have always been ill-fated (néfaste), and people should be prudent. There are too many merchants imposing whatever they want in the wrong places.”
The review of CORNAS 2014, with nearly 60 wines assessed, is now available under WINES AND TASTINGS, 2014 NORTHERN RHÔNE, THE LEADING WINES.