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2008 Cornas, Domaine Pierre Gaillard
Pierre Gaillard is one of the most respected vignerons in the Northern Rhône. He had worked previously for both Vidal-Fleury and Etienne Guigal before starting out on his own and then received great reviews when he first started producing in the mid-eighties, his first vintage being 1987.
From the precipitous Medieval village of Malleval, Pierre surveys his fine granitic vineyards of St. Joseph, Condrieu and Côte Rôtie with experienced eyes. He produces around 18,000 bottles of red St. Joseph each year from just under 40 hectares. He is particularly skilful in using oak to coax luxuriant and extremely seductive flavours, but flavours that never lose sight of the individuality of their originating terroirs.
His St Jospeh Blanc is unusual in that it is entirely made from Roussanne, its more usual partner, Marsanne, eschewed in a successful quest for aromatic harmomy. The wines spend six months in 10-20% new oak prior to bottling, adding weight and richness to the final wine.
Pierre had always been fascinated by the beauty of the Banyuls countryside and by the huge potential of the terroir. In 2002, he purchased the old estate of Pagès and went into partnership with a former member of the local co-operative Jean Baills and his son Matthieu.
Jean and Matthieu not only brought their wide knowledge of the terroir, the local weather and the history of the cru but also about 15 hectares of vineyard containing mostly old Grenache and Carignan vines, as well as plantings of Mourvèdre, Syrah, Vermentino and others. All these have been added to the original seven hectares of the Domaine Pagès, and new plantings have been under way since 2003.
The Magenca is a red Collioure blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Carignan which has spent 15 months in barrel, 30% of which was new 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
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