Joe Czerwinski - 29/12/2017
About this WINE
Domaine Alain Voge
This domaine rose to prominence when Alain Voge joined his father’s smallholding in the late 1950s, moving it from polyculture to focusing exclusively on wine. Alain rapidly became the Cornas appellation’s greatest advocate: he championed its reputation internationally as well as at home and, until his death in 2020, was regarded as the godfather of this portion of the Rhône.
In his five decades at the domaine, Alain worked meticulously in the vineyards, replanting abandoned slopes, regenerating old-vine Syrah and using traditional winemaking techniques to produce increasingly noteworthy wines. Following Alain’s retirement 2004, Chapoutier alumnus Albéric Mazoyer took over as co-owner and winemaker, moving the domaine to biodynamic practices. Since 2018, Lionel Fraisse has been at the helm. He continues to champion the sustainable winemaking of his predecessors.
Today, the domaine spans more than 12 hectares: eight in Cornas and four in St Péray. It is farmed organically and biodynamically. Wines are vinified traditionally – largely de-stemmed and with no new oak influences. Despite burgeoning interest and price appreciation in the Northern Rhône, these wines still offer outstanding value.
The 2019 vintage displays intense, ripe fruits. The wines have the tannic structure for which Cornas is renowned, but they are refined rather than robust – testament to skilled work in the vineyard and, of course, the cellar.
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.