Foire aux vins de Cornas
December 23, 2008, 3:24 pm
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The 52nd fair of the year’s new releases took place in Cornas village hall on December 3rd, with fifty winemakers representing all six northern Rhone appellations.  My hosts had visited the tasting hall the previous evening to escape the crowds and swiftly guided me to old friends, old favorites, and what they considered the breakthrough wines of the event.  After an extended lunch, where my hosts entertained guests from Dijon and after several bottles of Domaine du Tunnel (where I had harvested in September), the men of the party rose from the table and we set off for the idyllic village of Cornas.  

Warmly welcomed by my increasingly merry group, I found myself regarded with curiosity by winemakers, wives, and cave workers – mademoiselle, heels, suit (will put together the Aigle-Carhartt-Barbour uniform next time) assuredly speaking bad french and taking illegible notes on their wine.  The large hall was bustling – countless children, portly amateur collectors stocking up on the new vintage, friends from neighboring villages gossiping, recommendations being passed between the tables.  I leaped at a chance to try Matthieu Barret’s biodynamic Cornas, the first in the area and in short supply.  Despite its ornate label in black and silver and a comparatively high price, I was however underwhelmed by what I tasted.  I look forward to revisiting his wine and finding out how M. Barret deals with limited sulphur application, the crutch of many organic producers.  

At Alain Voge, they decided I was a journalist and received me attentively as I tried some excellent uncomplicated whites and what was the stand-out Cornas of the afternoon in my opinion, the 2006 Les Vieilles Fontaines.  After tasting several rustic, jarring St. Josephs, I was delighted to come across Natacha Chave at Aléofane pouring her velvety 2006, in which I found a finesse I had not seen anywhere in St. Joseph in my short apprenticeship in the Northern Rhône.  I managed to track down Aléofane this week at Cave du Lourmel in Paris 15th and I look forward to profiling the intriguing vigneronne for you along with my tasting notes.  

View of Hermitage from Tournon

Whisked onto a TGV back to the capital, I winced at missing a celebratory dinner at Domaine du Tunnel, where I had been fed extravagantly right through the harvest, but content to have soaked in the warm, unceremonious fair of wine and to have gotten friendly with the 2006 vintage.  Enamoured with the characters of this peculiar and beautiful bend in the Rhône, and almost feeling right at home, I wonder which upcoming season of winemaking will bring me back to this magical place.