Cave de Tain, Arenes Sauvages, AOP Cornas, Ardeche, Northern Rhone, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France, 2010
Cornas, established as an appellation in 1938, lies on the right bank of the Rhone, south of, and contiguous with, St Joseph, and south-west of Hermitage, which lies on the left bank. The vineyards extend in a general westwards direction from the eponymous village, with a north-south extent of a little under 3 kms. Soils are granitic and well-drained, the best in the central (as opposed to north or south) section, with sub-surface clay patches . The topography is steep and complex with valleys and gullies, at all orientations, at up to 400m elevation, which when south-facing (as in the central section), act as sun-traps, and protect from the strong northerly Mistral and rain of the Rhone corridor, so there is less disease pressure. The harvest here can be a week in advance of Hermitage. The vineyards are steeply terraced with low granite walls.
Cornas is a syrah only appellation. The wines are powerful, somewhere between Cote-Rotie and Hermitage , traditionally viewed as their country cousin – implying rusticity and lack of finesse. There are two styles now, modern and traditional eg see . A top producer of the former style is Jean-Luc Colombo, who destems before fermentation, permits MLF, ages in new oak, and uses little filtration, to give wines that are more fruity and less tannic, and so more approachable early on; on the other hand, Auguste Clape is a traditionalist, with no destemming and ageing for up to 1.5 years in old oak, to give wines that are highly tannic in youth, but which mellow with age, with the best ageing gracefully for 20-30 years. There are also high quality offerings from negociants such as Paul Jaboulet Aine and Michel Chapoutier.
In general, the best cuvees can age for 8-10 years.
This wine: lot No. L12189, varietal syrah, (likely destemmed) MLF, 20 months ageing in French oak, coated natural cork closure, 13.5% abv, ex-producer, €26.95 (10/16)
Consumer tasting note: a Cornas in a modern style, with destemming, malolactic fermentation, and ageing in new oak, a deep ruby, with strong aromas of rich black cherry and black currant jam, spicy and a little smoky with warm toast, with warm black liquorice in the background; full-bodied with flavours of black currant juice, black cherry and squashed ripe black berry, a touch of cedary-savouriness and black liquorice. Finishes long.
Drink now – RTD, but will keep – Wait. Decant into an open-topped jug for 2 hours.
This international Parker-style offering was neither recognised as, nor appreciated by, aficionados of the real Cornas, at a wine circle that I attend. Comments included not distinctive, not typical, more like Cotes du Rhone …
WSET style tasting note
Appearance: clear and bright, deep intensity ruby, showing tears [no sediment].
Nose: clean, pronounced intensity, developing, with aromas as they come, of a hint of raw steak, bright black cherry, spicy, black currant jam, a little smoky, black pepper, warm black liquorice, warm leaf humus, warm toast, hint of beeswax, hint of cedar.
Palate: dry, medium (+) acidity, ripe medium tannins, medium (+) alcohol, full body, a smooth texture with a sense of sweetness in mid-palate, with flavours of blackcurrant juice, black cherry, more fragrant squashed black berry, hint of cedar, a touch savoury, black liquorice. A long length with a clean black cherry and berry finish, edged with a hint of black liquorice and a lightly savoury touch.
Quality: very good, a perfectly balanced combination of fresh acidity and ripe moderate tannins with alcohol, harmonious with the strong intensity and slightly lesser concentration; showing better than moderate complexity with evidence of time in wood (cedar, smoke, spice, toast) and bottle (beeswax, cedar, leaf humus); finishes just long.
Drinking readiness/ageing potential: can drink now, but has potential for further ageing, over say 2-3 years – a sound balance and structure, lots of intensity and concentration and a long finish, in the development phase, with plenty of primary fruit to work, aiming to leave a balance of primary and tertiary profiles.
- Livingstone-Learmouth, J. (2005). The Wines of the Northern Rhone. University of California Press.
- Livingstone-Learmouth, J. Cornas. [online] accessed 22/09/18.