About this WINE
Domaine Robert Michel
Robert Michel, along with Auguste Clape, has longbeen seen as the doyen of the Cornas village and it was a genuinely sad day when he announced his retirement following the 2006 vintage. Fortunately the good work looks set to continue as his nephew Vincent Paris takes control.
Robert Michel has been the 9th generation of Michels to produce wine in Cornas. His estate has 7 hectares of vines situated on steeply terraced hillsides and has cellars bang in the middle of the village. The vines have an average age of 40+ years, although the grapes that go to make his single vineyard selection, La Geynale, are from vines planted in 1910. Robert Michel's estate produces two other cuvées; Pied-de-Coteau, from the vines nearest the village on the flat and from somewhat heavier alluvial soils, and Coteau, from small plots on this vertiginous slope
The winemaking is traditional with few concessions to modern fads such as destalking and the use of new oak barriques in the elevage. The grapes are fermented in concrete vats and then aged in used oak barrels for 18-20 months. Robert Michel does not believe in filtration but fines his wines lightly with egg whites, prior to bottling. These are big, massively structured, muscular wines that require a minimum 5 years bottle ageing. They are not for the faint hearted.
Cornas is a small appellation, just 150 hectares, located south of St Joseph. It’s on the west side of the river. The name “Cornas” comes from an old Celtic dialect term, meaning “burnt land”, so it’s no surprise that on the steep terraces here, facing south, temperatures are significantly higher than those in Hermitage, which is just 7km away.
The granite soils are home to the Syrah grape, producing reds that sit somewhere between those of Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie. These are strong and powerful wines, with nervy acidity and a robust, rustic charm to them. Their prominent tannins mean that they often demand time in the cellar to express their underlying elegance and complexity.
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.