(Jancis Robinson & Julia Harding MW - jancisrobinson.com - 1 Mar 2012)
About this WINE
Jean-Luc Colombo, founder of the Centre Oenologique des Côtes du Rhône, started to acquire his vineyards in Cornas in 1987. A controversial figure, he also works as a consultant to a fair proportion of other producers and is perhaps well described as the Rhône's answer to Michel Rolland, the "flying winemaker" from Bordeaux.
Jean-Luc is very much a "hands-on" producer and believes in complete destemming, malolactic fermentation in cask, new oak and high attention towards impeccable cellar conditions. He also favours organic viticulture and less filtration before bottling. His theories, and his manner of putting them forward, have often been heavily criticised by his competitors, but his wines speak for themselves - full, deep and rich. His wines from the vineyard sites of Les Ruchets and Les Terres Brûlées are invariably excellent.
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.