LVT 2017 r 2018 wh Traditional, hearty, whole bunch Cornas, that can hit the mark. Alain Verset is the son of the late Louis Verset, a confirmed part of the Cornas fabric. He works the family vineyard at the weekends, and in a local factory during the week. His daughter Emmanuelle took over in 2016, and things are on the up here. Raising is in younger casks, and handling is more gentle, amounting to an uplift in the fine tuning of of the Cornas. In 2018 a superior Cornas was introduced called Signature Verset, a selection of the best wine. 2018 was also the first year when none opf the harvest was sold, so that gives the challenge of skilful blending. Previously, yields could have been lower, winemaking more precise. From 2017 there has been a respectable, easy Viognier from the plain of Cornas.
LVT 2018 r This used to be whole bunch vinification, from one of the part time vignerons of Cornas, improvement noted in the early 2010s. 1950s and 1960s Syrah from Combe [the southern, mild sector] is a good basis for the wine. Regard this as country Cornas.
A vigneron at the weekend on the old family plot. Traditional style. Some crop is sold to Chapoutier.
LVT 2003 r Catherine’s great grandfather was Alphonse Jaboulet of the Jaboulet Vercherre family of Burgundy, and merchants in Rhône wines in my youth. She has a cellar for raising in rue Pied la Vigne in Cornas. There is one terraced plot of 3.5 hectares on Chaillot. Whole bunch vinification here. One-third of the crop goes to Cuchet-Beliando, the other two-thirds to Guillaume Gilles. Sales have traditionally been by word of mouth. The curiosity is that the wines are stored in bottle for three to four years before release – the 2003 was put on sale in 2009, for instance, and in 2018 it is the 2013 that is the current vintage on sale. In the past they were vinified by Robert Michel. Guillaume Gilles has vinified them since 2007. The wines around the turn of the century were a little rustic. There are 1,000 to 1,500 bottles in any one year.
LVT 2016 r 2017 wh There was an abrupt parting of the ways in the mid-2000s between Chrystelle and her brother Johann Michel. In 2011 Chrystelle restarted her side of the vineyard with a Cornas and a Saint-Péray. Light, aromatic Cornas, also a joli, more than robust, Saint-Péray.
LVT 2018 r 2018 wh Since 2004 until the summer of 2018, Alain Voge was in a partnership with Albéric Mazoyer, an Ardechois man who used to work at Chapoutier as a vineyard and winemaking advisor. Alain worked all his life at Cornas since his teenage years and continued to be very involved with his domaine until his death in early September, 2020. Albéric's successor is Lionel Fraisse. In the earliest days, I find a slight sense of more fleshy content under him, an accentuation of greater overt richness, while the whites may have a little more poise, a good thing.
There have always been many different wines at this domaine, with various versions based on vineyard ages and oaking levels. The best two, the Cornas Vieilles Vignes and the Cornas Les Vieilles Fontaines, are very good - full, with a good core of sweet fruit and tannic persistence. They drink notably well around 5 to 10 years old. Appraising the 2018 Cornas range, I found the *** Les Chaillés (€32) mechanical, clipped when young, the ****(*) Les Vieilles Vignes (€46) capable of being stylish and convincing, and the ***(*) Les Vieilles Fontaines (€80) neo-modern, arm's length wine in search of "tension". There was some acetate present in them, which should burn off.
The St-Péray also comes in oaked and non-oak styles, and there is a little sparkling St-Péray as well. The St-Péray Les Terres Boisées was renamed Ongrie [after its site] in 2016, and is an accurate reflection of its granite and clay soils on Hongrie - STGT wine in 2011, 2012 and 2016, and ****(*) in 2018, the clay aiding moisture retention in the hot summers. A red St-Joseph was first produced in 2005 from a rented site near Cornas. At times, the oak can be intrusive if the wines are drunk too young. The domaine recently converted to biodynamic practices.
LVT 2019 r 2018 wh STGT domaine - the reference point. Prime vineyards, unhurried winemaking. It has always been whole bunch, with old oak small barrels of around 12 hl used for the raising. The wines show the depth and energy of Cornas' granite base, their lithe fruit and sinewed tannins coming together only after some years. The best vintages can live for 30 years or more: the 2015 will run into the 2050s, for example, while the 2005 is still on its tight mineral grip at 15 years. The younger vines wine, Renaissance, introduced in 1997 and featuring "young" vines between 15 and 30 years' old, is accessible earlier, and about half+ the price.
There is also a Côtes du Rhône red based on granite and galet stone soils at and near Saint-Péray; this lives well, gives a lot wine for the price, while there is also a very neat Vin de France called Vin des Amis red - character and longevity in both. The Saint-Péray is a mainly old vine 80% Marsanne, 20% Roussanne, raised 67% in vat, 33% oak barrel - very consistent and able to be drunk over six to eight years. Since around 2012, the soils have been worked more than before under Olivier Clape, with benefit for the vineyards and the quality of the fruit. From 2018 there has been only one bottling of the Cornas in October, two years after the harvest - the August bottling for the USA has been suppressed.
LVT 2018 r Cyril is a highly enthusiastic young man who has taken what chances he can in getting vineyards together. He supplements his wine activities with giving classes in wine at Tournon, for students and adults. He bought a patch of Cornas in 2011, and Saint-Péray in 2012, and the vineyards are worked organically. The first Cornas was the 2018, the 2017 from its young vines sold as Vin de France. The Cornas is whole bunch fermented. The first Saint-Péray, which is half Marsanne, half Roussanne, was the 2017. Cyril also works 0.17 ha of Syrah at Mauves for a Saint-Joseph red. He aims for fresh, stylish wines, and is a promising talent.
Jean Lionnet's last vintage was 2005, after which his rental agreement with the Barret family lapsed, and he took his retirement. He was an early modernist at Cornas, happy to use new or young oak and for his crop to be destemmed. The reds were always well cast, with clear fruit, and the top wine, the Domaine de Rochepertuis Cornas, carried sound stuffing. Its local roots emerged with time. Jean's St-Péray was also always very cleanly made, a wine that could live for up to 8 years or so in the best vintages. Salut, Jean!
LVT 2019 r 2018 wh The family grouping – called GAEC in French - exploded in 2003, and Johann's father Jean-Luc remained with 2.45 hectares, the produce of which is sold to négociants including Tardieu Laurent. His sister Chrystelle went off to do other things, and in the early 2010s returned to Cornas to start her own domaine. Johann is very motivated, and is doing well, coming up with wines that have great purity of fruit. He attributes increased finesse and freshness to the working of the vineyard soils since around 2015. He gives his own wines very accurate appraisals, which I like and respect.
The style is modern, nearly New Wave. From 2018 he has included 20% of the stems in his classic Cornas; the special Jana, taken from 2000 Syrah on Chaillot, was supplemented from 2016 with 50% Syrah from 2000-early 2010s Syrah on the sandy, South facing soils of Les Côtes; it has been a whole bunch wine since its first year of 2005. The 2018 was an excellent ****(*) wine of great fineness and high potential. In 2016 Johann introduced a third Cornas called Mère Michel from massale cuttings of Serine off the 1947 Yves Cuilleron vineyard at Chavanay. There are two Saint-Pérays, both elegant, and, from 2016, a Saint-Joseph red from the southernmost commune of Saint-Joseph, off the limestone of Guilherand. There is also a handy Vin de Table Syrah from the plain at Cornas.
LVT 2018 r 2018 wh A traditional Cornas domaine with some STGT qualities; quality is rising as the wines have become fresher. It has been organic since 2007, officially organic since 2012. Daughter Corinne is encouraging greater bottling and small tidy-ups are occurring in the cellar - glassing the interior of the vats, for instance. Whole bunch fermentation, no cultured yeasts - leave-alone winemaking - mean the wine is full with apparent tannins when young. It is a genuine drop of country wine. The first vintage for Corinne and Ludovic was 2003.
Since 2008 one hectare of Cornas - from massale Syrah cuttings - has been added on Saint-Pierre, quite high up. This now forms the second Cornas called Pur Granit, dnd given the combination of young vines and altitude, it is a streamlined, direct wine, with good clarity. Meanwhile, the 1910 Serine from Mazards was taken out after the 2014 crop. Hence a there has been a shift in the age profile of the Cornas vineyard. The Saint-Joseph red is also from young vines, 2008 onwards; the 2018 was a w.o.w. wine, giving entertaining drinking. From 2018 there is a white Saint-Joseph, 100% Roussanne, 0.29 hectare from clay-limestone soils at 300 metres at Châteaubourg, the same site as the St Jo red.
LVT 2018 r Nicolas Serrette returns, as many good Cornasiens do, after another career. Raise the flags! Nicolas, born in 1971, left his IT job at Trigano to run the domaine from 1 January, 2013. It remains at 1.8 hectares for the Cornas. This is a source of good, unpretentious, largely traditional Cornas from the southern zone. This means it is a softer wine than those from the north and carries less intensity of flavour than those from the prime central vineyards. However, the fruit is bright, and under Nicolas expect more flair in the wines. It is very consistent from one year to the next, and is always good VALUE. Some vintages show definite STGT characteristics - 2015 an excellent ***** example, and the ****(*) 2017 also, with VALUE, too. In 2006, half the crop was destemmed, in 2007 80%, as an oenologue adviser was hired - Jean-Etienne Guibert, who also looks after the Durand brothers and Stéphan Chaboud.
In 2013 a new wine, from 1913 Syrah on Patou, was introduced, its name simply Henri. There are two casks each year; this shows more cellar intervention than the Patou, and more oaking. It is 40% more expensive than the Patou. 0.15 hectare of Marsanne was planted on Gachet at Saint-Péray in 2018.
LVT 2017 r Part bottled, part sold in bulk. Born 30 April, 1938, Elie is now one of the most veteran of Cornas vignerons. The vineyards are in good sites - La Côte, Chaillot, Pied la Vigne, but the winemaking has always been behind the vineyard care, with the quality of the oak in the used casks in the firing line. Part of the crop is sold to Maxime Graillot's merchant venture, equis. The style is traditional.
LVT 1966 A Saint-Péray based merchant whose star turn was his Cornas
LVT 2018 r An STGT domaine. The wines express their place faithfully with tender winemaking in support. Old vine fruit is a key contributor, the base of the wine the old family vineyard bought in 1930 on Chaillot. This is a classic example of Cornas that carries clear fruit and early tannins requiring 3-4 years to settle. There are four bottlings each vintage, so cask ageing time can vary. Franck has worked organically since 2010 and this status became official in 2013. In 2013 he planted Roussanne on 0.315 hectare at Saint-Péray, on Clarençon close to Cornas, land that was overgrown. Since 2012 Franck [pictured right, with Guillaume Gilles left] has also produced 1,600 to 2,400 bottles of SO2 free Cornas, made from young vines on La Lègre. This was a ****(*) wine of high interest and purity in 2018. It can live past 10 years if stocked in stable conditions, with little variation in cellar temperature.
In 2015 Franck started a small merchant business, whereby he buys in Syrah crop from St-Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage and the Côtes du Rhône (50% Grenache, 45% Syrah, Mourvèdre, 5% Carignan). There are 1,500 bottles of Crozes (from La Roche-de-Glun) and 1,000 bottles of St-Joseph (from Mauves), while the Côtes du Rhône comes from Séguret. He also now has a new, spacious cellar near the railway tracks.
LVT 2005 The Fumats made their last Cornas in 2005. This veteran couple, André and Ghislaine Fumat, also grow fruit and vegetables. The wine can be true Cornas in good vintages. Half the vineyard has been sold, half has been rented out to Stéphan Chaboud at Saint-Péray.
LVT 2019 r 2012 wh A young man who worked chez Robert Michel and Jean-Louis Chave from 2000 to 2004. He gained an extra two hectares in early 2007, and is now up to 3.5 ha, the main vineyard Chaillot, and has become a leading name at Cornas. His secondary Cornas vineyard is at 400 metres on the white sanded granite on Eyrieux, which gives its own Cornas, a lesser wine more on clear fruit. So far, one hectare has been planted out of two available, but planting rights are not much more than 0.05 hectare a year, thankfully.
The wines are whole bunch fermented, traditional, cleanly made, and good punch lies at their heart. There is also a good Côtes-du-Rhône (until 2017 Vin de France) called Les Peyrouses, which is half 1870s-1900s Syrah - get that! Guillaume also makes a Gamay of character, based on the Gamay de Saint Romain - "more colour, more structure than the classic Gamay", from the Massif Central foothills west of Tournon. Guillaume's cellars are the old Robert Michel venue.
LVT 1991 The leading landed family at Cornas, in the village since the late 1400s, and providers of most of the stained glass in the church. Guy died around 2008, having let out his vineyards to Domaine de Fauterie and Colombo in the past. Mostly from 1910s Syrah on Barjasse, near Tezier, very central, with 1979 Syrah from Chaillot. There were short eight day fermentations in the 1980s, some six day fermentations in the mid-1970s as Guy sought elegance. The wines were notably stylish, especially in the context of long fermentations and brooding depth from those around him at the time
LVT 2018 r 2018 wh Jacques Lemenicier makes authentic local Cornas with elegance accentuated. Usually up to half the wine is sold in bulk to local merchants. From 2006 he has made a “superior” Cornas from his core Pigeonnier vineyard, which receives some new oak. The 2015 Cornas was a **** STGT wine pre-bottling, while the 2016 was a zesty, well grounded ****(*) wine. There are two Saint-Pérays, with an avalanche of planting - three hectares since 2014, as rights are easy to come by there. The total is now five hectares. One is vat fermented, the other oaked – the latter goes best with food. In 2015 Jacques bought 0.9 hectare on Les Saviaux at La Roche de Glun across the River in the southern part of Crozes-Hermitage. He has been joined on the domaine by his nephew David Laurier since 2014.
LVT 2018 r 2018 wh The Wandering Minstrel of Cornas. Anne Colombo vinified the wines until 2013, and the touch from her was lighter than in the past - less new oak as well. Daughter Laure joined full-time in summer 2011, having vinified here in 2010, and spent time at Château Haut-Brion, two years at the Wine School of Montpellier, and a stage at Châteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine Saint-Préfert. She also worked for a year in marketing in Delhi, India.
From 2013 Laure has made more of a personal mark on the wines, has backed off new oak, is using more Burgundy rather than Bordeaux casks, and older used casks, as well, and is fine tuning the fruit. She has her own Cornas Domaine de Lorient, as well as the main Colombo business to look after. Since 2017 the family has much enlarged cellars on the rue des Violettes on the west side of the village, and greater care is coming through.
There is a wide négociant range from purchased wines from both Northern and Southern Rhône. The three Cornas can have good style, but there are times when one wishes for a more souful, and less technical, expression. Oak, although reduced, remains a jester in the pack. 2018 is superior to 2017 for them, notably via the **** Terres Brûlées and the **** Les Ruchets. Since 2016, Laure has included stems on Les Ruchets, the 2018 at 20% of them, a wise move given the hot summers. The whites are now interesting, refined, with a tendency at times towards a New Wave, airborne treatment. Again, Laure has adapted to the heat by cutting the Roussanne proportion on the Saint-Péray La Belle de Mai from 70% to 50% in 2018, stating that the Marsanne handles the hot summers better. There is a very good vin de pays Clairette, Les Anthénors, from the Bouches du Rhône west of Marseille.
LVT 2018 r Very promising young grower: if only he had more vineyards. Jérôme is in his late thirties, and works the family plots at the weekend. He took over the vinification from his father before the latter sadly died from cancer in September 2008. His week job is selling corks up and down the Rhône Valley. Definite promise, but micro quantities for both his Cornas and Côtes du Rhône red. Some white IGP has been produced from 0.5 hectare planted in 2013. In 2015 Jérôme moved his sales outlet to Toulaud, near Saint-Péray, so he has more space to vinify in the village of Cornas.
LVT 2016 r Louis Sozet sadly died in 2019, at the age of 83. His great grandfather lived in Cornas, but it took the family time to achieve vineyard ownership. Louis started in 1958 after the sudden death of his father Jean. This is traditional, true Cornas whose filling is no doubt helped by fruit from some 1919 Syrah - it is country wine from another era. Part of the vineyard is let out to, among others, Stéphane Robert of the Domaine du Tunnel. The harvest has been recently sold to merchants such as Chapoutier. In 2014 400 bottles were produced. Louis' brother Bernard who lives in Lyon has been giving a helping hand recently.
LVT 2010 r Brother of Stéphane Robert of Domaine du Tunnel. Has three terraces of vines at Cornas, mainly on Patou. His main business is two mobile tangential filtration machines that visit domaines across the northern Valley
Fruit on show, restrained style of Cornas, with tannins that need around five years to settle. A veteran now, part of the vineyard is rented out.
LVT 2018 r 2018 wh An organic-biodynamic wines. Matthieu is a lively presence at Cornas, although family roots are long present at the village. The family let out some of their vines to Jean Lionnet in the past. There are biodynamic working practices, and fashionably low levels of sulphur used in the winemaking. The wines have moved past a phase when they were over extracted, and Matthieu has managed to achieve stylish fruit and a definite leaning towards the elegance of Burgundy, even if they now lean towards New Wave, pared back. They are expensive. The 2015 Cornas Gore is a ***** wine, the 2015 Cornas Billes Noires a **** wine. Since that magic vintage, I have found some of the wines rather functional.
There are also a red Côtes du Rhône Villages from Visan, and a Vin de Table from Roussanne and Viognier planted inside the Cornas zone. Matthieu's new cellar beside the old chapel on the way into Cornas, launched for the 2017 vintage, has given him acres of extra space. Since 2013, there has been a Côte-Rôtie Matthieu Barret SARL, made in conjunction with Jean-Michel Stéphan: 1,200 bottles, concrete vat raised. Magnums of a jolly Syrah-Grenache are produced with fellow organic-biodynamic growers David Reynaud of Domaine Les Bruyères at Crozes-Hermitage and Stan Wallut of Domaine de Villeneuve at Châteauneuf-du-Pape; it is called Les Trois Barbus - the three bearded ones, and the **** 2016 was a good party wine of high appeal.
LVT 2017 r 2018 wh Mickaël Bourg's grandfather was a mason at Cornas, and Mickaël decided to go into wine after two years of working as a mechanic. He rents a few vines from Matthieu Barret, where he has worked, and made his first wine in 2006. He has grown his Cornas vineyard from 0.5 to 1.5 hectares, and the wines have improved markedly since the early 2010s. Whole bunch fermentation on the reds. This has become a good address for genuine, good VALUE Cornas, while the 100% Marsanne Saint-Péray is also marching forwards, the 2017 a genuine country style **** wine, the 2018 a **** wine of character.
Noël Verset was the last of the Cornas old timers, born 4 December, 1919. He has only ever known manual work, both in the vineyard and outside in the dog days of the 1950s, when he doubled up working nights on the French Railways in a warehouse in Valence. His traditional Cornas is robust, and reflects the old days – whole bunches, foot crushing, used cask raising, and maybe some volatile hints here and there. The size of the casks changed in his later years from 600-litres to 228-litres as the oak aged, and he found the demi-muids of 600-litres too heavy to handle. His last vintage was 2006, with crop from his 0.18 hectare Champelrose vineyard. This is now worked by his nephew Alain, while his 0.5 ha holding on Chaillot is being worked by Franck Balthazar. Chapeau, Monsieur Verset!
LVT 2005 Robert Michel retired after the 2006 vintage. His holdings were spread across a few young growers. The most notable transfer was the sale of 1.2 hectares on Reynards, Le Thezier and La Geynale to an Anglo-Scandinavian group of wine professionals and enthusiasts (including me). Vincent Paris will work these under a 40-year rental agreement. La Geynale was a good, traditional Cornas that could live for 15+ years. Its fullness reflected the 1910 Syrah from a prime, southern slope in the heart of the appellation.
LVT 2017 wh 2017 r 2017 rosé The Former King of new oak. Michel Tardieu is the Rhône connection, now on his own having been associated with his Burgundian ex-partner Dominique Laurent until 2008. This is a high class merchant business which raises the wines in southern Rhône cellars at Lourmarin in the Lubéron. Some of the wines are organic, the Tavel Vieilles Vignes, for example. Michel's children came into the business in the 2010s, and in October, 2018, it was announced that he had sold 49% of the business to EPI Group, owners of Champagne Charles Heidsieck, Piper Heidsieck, Biondi-Santi [Brunello] and Chateau La Verrerie in the Lubéron. Improved cashflow and a widened home and overseas sales market were cited as reasons.
Always excellent sources have been used - old vines, good growers, prime sites. The Tardieu family work with over 80 vignerons. Since 2012, there have been changes in the methods. That was the first year they delivered their casks to the vigneron whose wine they were buying, for the first 8 to 12 months raising. For the Northern Rhône, some of the casks are new, for the Southern Rhône there are no new casks, with 1 to 5 year casks used. The wines then go to their cellars at Lourmarin into 22.5 hl oak barrels – mainly for the Syrah – for a second year or part of a year.
The Southern wines – notably the Grenache wine - spend their second year in 45 hl barrel. Overall, the Southern Rhône wines are assembled in September, after not quite one year’s raising, and the Northern Rhône in November, after a little more than one year. The reds are neither fined nor filtered. The whites are unfined, filtered. There are two lines; at the top is the Vieilles Vignes range, which receives 18 to 24 months raising. Under that comes the Becs Fins range which are raised in concrete vat, the whites for 6 to 8 months, the reds for 10 to 12 months.
Their Cornas has always been my favourite - it comes in a more savoury style than some, but the richness is genuine and prolonged. The Hermitage is also very consistent in red and white. These are expensive wines - not surprising after the oak has been paid for! In the south, the Gigondas and the Côtes du Rhône Guy Louis red are very good - both value for money.
Costières de Nîmes is no longer part of the range. There are 10,000 bottles of Lubéron red, sold locally.
LVT 2019 r 2006 wh Plenty of STGT qualities at this top-notch domaine. Thiérry Allemand works on low yields, and painstaking vinifications, with limited use of sulphur. The fruit is clear and well-defined, Reynard being the more structured wine, demanding greater patience than Chaillot. Both are high quality, year in, year out, if now expensive. A low profile vintage success is the 2011, since Thiérry's timing with his harvest was impeccable for that, the 2011 wines gaining depth as they age. It included his SO2 free Reynard wine, the usual lot of 2,000 bottles. That wine was ended in 2014. In 2015 and 2016 Thiérry made a "special" Reynard from the old Noel & Louis Verset vineyard, 1,200-1,400 bottles. He asserts that only Sabarotte and perhaps Genale would be capable of giving its quality.
A little St-Péray was made in 2005 and 2006. There used to be some St-Joseph crop, from the southernmost part of the appellation, that was sent to the Tain Co-operative, with one wine made only in 2005.
LVT 2018 r 2017 wh DECLARATION I own a few vines on La Genale, the vineyard planted by Paul Michel, Vincent Paris' great-grandfather. Vincent is the nephew of Robert Michel, a longstanding pillar of Cornas, who retired in 2006 and sold his vineyards in part to Vincent and in part to a small Anglo-French-Scandinavian group of winelovers. Vincent's wines are cleaner and more modern than his uncle's.
The white and the St Joseph red are of low interest - very light, rather skimpy wines, although the 2018 red was an improved **** performer [vines now 20 years' old). The Cornas is obviously better, but can lack due care, so the 2007 La Geynale, made with low SO2, started to drop after only about four years, while the 2008 had high Volatile Acidity. Very low levels of sulphur were initially used in the winemaking, but the wines have been more stable since 2009, and raising has been extended a little, as I urged Vincent to allow two winters for the wine. The Granit 30 is the fruit-forward wine - indeed, it was w.o.w. Cornas in 2018 - the Granit 60 more structured and best left for four to five years so it can take on some of the Cornas heartiness beyond its first fruit. The third Cornas, La Geynale, makes me understandably excited, given that it is founded on 1910 Syrah from a wonderful south-facing slope in the heart of Cornas. Genale is a subset of the acclaimed Reynards site.
LVT 1991 The only vintage labelled as made by Yvonne Verset, but was in fact made by Louis Verset, her husband. Louis Verset was Noël Verset’s younger brother. A one-off. Note Yvonne is called a viticulteur not a viticultrice on the label.