The ¡GoCornas! winery of the year is… (¡shock/horror!) a Cornas!
Dom. Vincent Paris, Cornas, France
I had the great pleasure of visiting Mr. Paris in the blazing Cornas heat of a couple of summers ago. His is an unassuming winery being neither small nor large, neither modern nor old. It is striking only by dint of an air of intense functionality which it quietly exudes, reminding me somewhat of the working farms amongst which I grew up. Here no fetish of rusticity is cultivated as nothing is cherished or preserved extraneous to the matter in hand. Mr. Paris himself, in keeping with the spirit of the premises, is softly spoken yet with an underlying confidence which one cannot helped but be impressed by.
Most of the producers we met in the Rhône liked to labour the point of being “first and foremost a farmer” and that the “proper work is all done in the vineyard”. One of the most slanderous things one could say about their neighbour was “Monsieur such et such spends far too much time pottering around in his winery”. It was therefore quite striking to hear our friend Mr. Paris proclaim something along that lines of “others [in the appellation] may have better plots, but I have better wine making methods.” While I cannot make any informed comment as to the technical legitimacy of such a claim, I will testify that his wines do indeed standout boldly from others in the district. While we might be tempted to say that all the best Cornas is elegant and with some degree of freshness (even if by “elegant” we simply mean “balanced” and by “fresh” “not past it”) these are unlikely to be the words which most readily spring to mind to describe the character of the appellation. The genius of Mr. Paris’s wines lies in their ability to harness both the brooding depth, concentration and spicy varietal character one would like to expect from classic Cornas whilst exhibiting a delicacy and lightness of touch which is totally charming. The palate is not flooded by a tirade of flavour but is rather presented with several sumptuous courses, one after the other as if one were munching on Wonker’s Three-Course Dinner Chewing Gum.
For me what was one of the most exciting tasting experiences of the year was of the 2007 Le Geynale Cornas. Le Geynale is a sub-section of the celebrated Reynards vineyard. The vines here were planted in 1910 on pure granite on steep slopes which enjoy the maximum possible amount of sun and therefore the richest, ripest grapes. The fruit was tended and vinified here by Mr.Robert Michel until his retirement in 2006. As none of his immediate family were able to take up the mantle the plot was put onto the open market. Happily it was Mr. Michel’s nephew (our very own Paris) who was the first to express serious interest. However, not possessing the sufficient capital to acquire the plot independently he went into joint ownership with UK wine merchants Thorman Hunt.
So, 2006 was Mr. Michel’s last vintage making 2007 Mr. Paris’s first. The latter told us that his plan was to impose his own will on the plot and gradually bring the Le Geynale in line both stylistically and production-wise with the rest of his range. Despite already being a firm Paris convert and less of a fan of the Robert Michel bottling’s I couldn’t help feel a little apprehensive about the prospect of the loss of a unique wine. Tasting the 2007 on site it appeared to really be a continuation of the Michel wine with much bolder, riper fruit and bigger tannins than the Paris Granit bottles, lacking the trademark definition of the Paris style.
This year (two years on) I got another chance to sample the 2007 at the Thorman Hunt London tasting. With that little bit of bottle age the wine had developed into something quite quite wonderful. It still was a very different animal to the Granit 30 and 60 due to its sheer opulence, but its poise and liner structure clearly demonstrated more kinship than was evident on my first tasting. It had one of the most memorable finishes of any wine I have ever tried: a long succulent endnote of what I can only describe as buttered caramel popcorn.
It should be fascinating to see what impact the Paris hand will have on Le Geynale over the next few vintages. Perhaps dizzy heights may be reached now that he has the plot to par with his method.
Vincent Paris is represented in the UK by Thorman Hunt & Co. Ltd
And the Runner up…
Canneto, Montepulciano, Italy
Similar to Dom. Vincent Paris this estate is supported by distant wine enthusiasts and benevolent benefactors. The chief winemaker here is a Mr. Carlo Ferrini who is doing more than his fair share to bolster the image of the Vino Nobile appellation. The DOCG, so often the poorer cousin of brothers Chianti and Brunello, is done much honour here. Their Nobile is as dark and as brooding as many a sturdy Brunello with more than enough poise and elegance to match. The 2006 exhibits a wonderfully savoury, herbal, menthol nose and is full, rich and succulent on the palate with big dry tannins on the finish. This is a wine that would repay decanting and perhaps a few more years under its belt. At less than £20 retail this is stunning stuff indeed.
The basic Rosso di Montepulciano is also worth seeking, but basic it is everything but. Thier Riserva I have only had occasion to try once (2004, the current release) is of a broader more extracted character with riper almost cooked fruit and did not impress as much as the regular Nobile. Perhaps in time it will develop some of those more appealing savoury notes which makes the other wines from this property so alluring.
Some of the Year’s other Most Striking Wines
A.A. Badenhorst, Paardeburg, South Africa
Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2009
Fruit comes from sixty year old vines. On the nose it is fresh and fragrant with distinct notes of honeysuckle. Plenty of Chenin grip on the palate but with a sumptuous texture and a long fresh finish. The 2010 is similarly wonderful but of quite a different character – greener, grassier with a less honeyed/developed palate.
Dom. Colinot, Irancy, France
Irancy Cote de Moutier 2008
A shing light of the Yonne, this is a very fresh and mineral wine with just a touch of that healthy greenness you might expect from such a cool climate Pinot. On the palate the dominant impression is again one of freshness with some bolstering dry tannins. This is a complete and bracing wine which could teach many d’Or wines a thing or two about general deportment. It neither lacks anything nor carries any extraneous luggage. Very lovely and distinct.
Weinbach, Alsace, France
Pinot Gris Altenbourg Cuvee Laurence 2007
There is a slight animally/yeasty note on the nose here along with some mealy cereal oakiness. On the palate it is medium dry, full, perfumed, a touch spicy and impeccably balanced.
Mas du Daumas Gassac, Languedoc, France
Vin de Laurence 2007
An oddity. A cream coloured desert wine made with a blend of Sercial and Moscatel. The nose evokes various Indian spices while the palate impresses via the stark contrast it offers against the visual appeared of the wine in the glass – an opaque milky haze offset by ultra-keen precision and lineal transparity. Succulent and poised.
Fattoria San Lorenzo, Marche, Italy
Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Riserva Vigna dell Oche 2006
Fragrant and sumptuous – a heady mix of rich, mouth-coating white fruit, creamy potatoes and big but well-judged oak. Quite viscous on the palate but with excellent grip.
Szepsy, Tokaji, Hungary
Pierre Gimmonet, Champagne, France
Pale gold in colour. Aromas of black tea, yeast, sweet spice and nougat. It is full and rich on the palate with a long, dry and complex finish.
Gonzalo Byass, Jerez, Spain
Tio Pepe En Rama
A new product for GB, an unfilerted fino with approximately only a 3 month shelf life. I really hope they continue with this as it is quite quite lovely with the slightly hazy colour of scrumpy and a beautiful but powerful nose of flory apricots and citrus fruit. The palate is fuller, richer, and more mouth coating than Tio Pepe proper and with a finish that would make it cheap at twice the price. This is Fino turned up a couple of notches.
Ch. de Pez, St Estephe, France
The standout wine from a stating of several dozen 2008 Clarets due to its early expressiveness. It has a very distinctive nose of brooding bramble fruit and engine oil. Very dark, powerful and multidimensional with a spicy, creamy palate.
Dom. Laroche, Chablis, France
1er Les Vaudevey 2008
Surprisingly rich on the nose with sweetshop notes of jellied candies along with the more expected mineral contingent. Excellent grip, blanaced, succulent but assertive. Excellent stuff.
Gosset, Champagne, France
Grand Millesime 1985
Rich, succulent, clean, still crisp with cooked apples and walnuts.
Dom Catherine & Pierre Breton, Bourgueil, France
Vouvray Petillant Naturel 2008
An Incredible nose of spiced apples and fresh cider. Medium sweet with a lovely lightness of touch.
Qunita do Noval, Portugal
2007 Vintage Port
A touch heady, quite a bit of dry spice and black treacle with much less obvious fruit than the 08. On the palate full with liquorice and dry tannin. Masses of potential.
Egon Muller, Mosel, Germany
Golden colour, beautiful nose, ethereal, honey, citrus, waxy plastic, mineral, off dry, succulent, long rich finish. This is a perfect wine- one which the intricate complexities can be quietly mused over sniff by sip or can be happily glugged down by the pintful
Mount Horrocks, Clare Valley, Australia
Cordon Cut Riesling 2009
Fresh with hints of green veg, apples, cinnamon and other spices. Lucuous but with the acidity to match.
Tyrrell’s, Hunter Valley, Australia
Vat 47 Chardonnay 2007
Open, very fresh, a touch of mealy oak but with the overriding impression of freshness. Rich, mouthcoating, succulent on the palate with lovely acidity and a long finish.