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2011 Cornas, Domaine du Tunnel
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Located in a somewhat anonymous back-street of St Peray in Rhone, Domaine Du Tunnel is forging a reputation as one of the leading wine producers in newly rejuvenated villages of St Peray and Cornas, both famous through history and throughout France for making, respectively, excellent white and red wines.
Now, with the savoir faire of young vignerons such as Stéphane Robert, this reputation is set to achieve more international recognition.
Stephane began building this domain in 1994, when he was 24. He now works with 3ha in Cornas, 2.5 in Saint Joseph and 2 in Saint Peray, most of which he owns Aiming for wines which are characterised by fruit intensity rather than oak
A noble black grape variety grown particularly in the Northern Rhône where it produces the great red wines of Hermitage, Cote Rôtie and Cornas, and in Australia where it produces wines of startling depth and intensity. Reasonably low yields are a crucial factor for quality as is picking at optimum ripeness. Its heartland, Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, consists of 270 hectares of steeply terraced vineyards producing wines that brim with pepper, spices, tar and black treacle when young. After 5-10 years they become smooth and velvety with pronounced fruit characteristics of damsons, raspberries, blackcurrants and loganberries.
It is now grown extensively in the Southern Rhône where it is blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre to produce the great red wines of Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas amongst others. Its spiritual home in Australia is the Barossa Valley, where there are plantings dating as far back as 1860. Australian Shiraz tends to be sweeter than its Northern Rhône counterpart and the best examples are redolent of new leather, dark chocolate, liquorice, and prunes and display a blackcurrant lusciousness.
South African producers such as Eben Sadie are now producing world- class Shiraz wines that represent astonishing value for money.
Cornas is situated directly south of St. Joseph, and to the west of the river Rhône. It is 12km south of Tournon and directly east of Valence. Importantly, temperatures here are hotter than Hermitage, which is only 7km away. Cornas is a small appellation located in a south-facing semi-ampitheatre with granite-rich soils. The appellation was established in 1938 and only red wines are made, produced solely from the Syrah grape.A contributing factor to the style of the wines is the granitic soil; the wines are made traditionally and often spend two years in oak. They are also strong and powerful – a cross between Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie, but typically displaying less elegance and finesse. They tend to be much more serious wines than either St Joseph or Crozes-Hermitage, however.
Cornas can have a slightly raw and rustic side to them. Young Cornas can be deep and dense, almost pitch black in colour and ferociously tannic. After five to 10 years of ageing the best examples take on a more elegant and complex character, marked by aromas of sous bois and wild animals.
Recommended producers: Robert Michel, Augustus Clape, Paul Jaboulet
Best vintages: 2006, 2005, 2004, 2001, 1999, 1991, 1990