2016 Cornas, Les Arènes, M. Chapoutier, Rhône
About this WINE
Applying his usual break-neck rigour to the presidency of InterRhône has not in any way distracted Michel Chapoutier. His range is more impressive in scope than ever, providing the most complete dissection of the region’s styles and terroir. Founded in 1808, Michel took charge in 1988 and became the seventh generation of his family to run the domaine. Since then, quality has soared and he is now farming all his vineyards biodynamically. He also invests in new winemaking projects across the globe, as far-flung as Australia. His children, in particular his daughter, Mathilde, are now increasingly involved in the day-to-day management of the maison, bringing with her her entrepreneurial skills and vision.
Michel describes 2021 as a vintage the vignerons were unlikely to forget in a hurry, bringing an array of challenges that only hard work could overcome. It also brought a style of wines he thought long forgotten: ethereal in nature, with aromatic complexity, lower alcohols and bright acidities. They offer great elegance and finesse overall.You might remember that we offered Chapoutier’s 2021 sélection parcellaire back in October last year – an impressive range of his single vineyards, including his prestigious Ermitages. We do have small volumes left of some lines so if you’re interested in seeing a complete list, please speak to your Account Manager.
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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Michel’s Cornas vines are located next to a small chapel, which closely resembles that in Hermitage, the location of many of his top parcels. Old vine Syrah is grown on a combination of clay, limestone and decomposed granite, the latter known locally as “gore”. Destemmed but with lengthy cuviason and élevage, some of which is carried out in concrete, in the name of freshness, most in wood, in deference to latent complexity, this is a suitably robust and powerful example, with notes of beef-stock, tobacco, blueberry, camphor, liquorice and spice all vying patiently for attention. Drink 2020-2025.
Simon Field MW, Wine Buyer
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