About this WINE
Nephew of the great Noël Verset, Franck Balthazar made his first vintage in 2002 and produces around 4,000 bottles. His smallholding of just 4 hectares is next to the ever-expanding Colombo, the winery built directly behind his home in the heart of the village. He works with 100% whole-bunch, minimal sulphur and Ecocert (organic) accreditation, producing wines that are cool and well-measured.
2021 was a demanding vintage for Franck, as for many others, with such high attention to detail required to maintain vine and grape health in the vineyards as the season progressed. He comments that he was exhausted by the end of it, however it was all worth the effort and he has made some utterly brilliant wines. His approach is honest and simple: focusing on the vineyard, minimal intervention in the cellar and only using old Burgundy barrels for his reds. Despite his reputation for making tiny volumes of highly sought-after, top-end Cornas, one of the most eagerly anticipated wines in our Rhône offer each year is his affordable, yet brilliantly poised Côtes du Rhône, sourced from organically grown vineyards around Séguret. Whilst all other volumes are down, we are delighted to have secured a little bit more of this for our offer this year.
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.