2015 Cornas, Les Chailles, Alain Voge, Rhône
Jeb Dunnuck - 28/12/2016
About this WINE
Domaine Alain Voge
Alain Voge is one of the famous names in Cornas. The domaine rose to prominence when Alain joined his father’s smallholding in the late 1950s, moving it from polyculture to focusing exclusively on wine. He became the Cornas appellation’s greatest advocate, championing its reputation internationally as well as at home. Until his death in ’20, he was regarded as the godfather of this portion of the Rhône.
In his five decades at the domaine, Alain worked meticulously: replanting abandoned slopes, regenerating old-vine Syrah and using traditional winemaking techniques to produce increasingly noteworthy wines. Following Alain’s retirement ’04, Chapoutier alumnus Albéric Mazoyer took over as co-owner and winemaker, moving the domaine to biodynamic practices. Since ’18, Lionel Fraisse has been at the helm who 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. Farmed organically and biodynamically, the wines are vinified traditionally, with the grapes largely de-stemmed and oak influence kept to a minimum in the reds. Despite burgeoning interest and price appreciation in the Northern Rhône, these wines still offer outstanding value.
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.
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Eponymous slopes, suitably adroit, from the near homophone lieu-dit, Les Chailles, host one of Alain’s most sublime pieces of work. Syrah is seldom as expressive in youth, and after only a little time in glass it will cede a cornucopia of woodland magic. Oak plays its part, but discretely, diplomatically, as the fruit rejoins an almost painfully eloquent soliloquy. Drink 2022-2030+.
Simon Field MW, Wine Buyer
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