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Wonderful Cornas from Jean-Luc Colombo


I was (almost) lost for words when I tasted Jean-Luc Colombo's range of Cornas with Laure Colombo last week. They were simply stunning, and I cannot recommend strongly enough that you try them!

Based in Cornas, the Colombo family—headed by Jean-Luc, his wife Anne and increasingly assisted by their daughter Laure—reaches up and down the Rhône and beyond for their négociant bottlings... there's no denying the passion for Cornas that comes through in those wines. The 2018s are all excellent, from the entry-level Terres Brulées to the extravagantly priced, micro-production Vallon de l'Aigle.

- Joe Czerwinski, The Wine Advocate



Jean-Luc Colombo has been leading the way in the Cornas appellation since 1982, when he bought his domaine and set up his own wine consultancy business. Originally from Marseille and from a family of chefs, Jean-Luc is happiest around the table at home with family or friends, with some good food (cooked by his wife Anne) and wine (from his enviable cellar).

Their cellars are located in the village of Cornas, which gives its name to this tiny appellation of only 150 hectares, with steep granite terraces overlooking the Rhone River, and a claim to be the birthplace of Syrah.
They transmitted their love of wine to their daughter Laure, who joined the family estate in 2010, and is increasingly taking a leading role. Laure brings her delicacy and energy to the family estate, and has introduced a strong focus on organic farming and biodiversity, planting and preserving native plants on the edge of vineyards; encouraging the habitat of the native fauna by leaving woodland areas undisturbed. 
The harvest conditions for the 2018 vintage were near perfect - with warm temperatures ensuring consistent ripening of the grapes. This ensured excellent, even exceptional, quality across the Cornas vineyards, producing concentrated wines with great colour and tannins. 

All these wines are fantastic, from the Terres Brûlées all the way up to the truly incredible Vallon de L’Aigle, with power, finesse, soft spice and oodles of character!

2018 Cornas Terres Brûlées, J-L Colombo @ £175 per 6
100% Syrah grapes from vines averaging 40 years old, grown on granitic steep slopes. Terres Brûlées (burnt earth) is a blend of up to 20 parcels, hand harvested in small batches. 
Terres Brulées, or burnt earth, aptly describes the nose on this enticingly smoky, singed Syrah. Vinified from fully destemmed grapes and matured 21 months in oak (10% new), it has joyously youthful black-cherry and cassis flavors. Kissed by vanilla and framed in silky tannins, it's a fresh-footed expression of Cornas that's drinking at peak now through 2028. 

93pt, Wine Enthusiast

Lively, mineral-inflected aromas of fresh black/blue fruits, candied flowers, olive and exotic spices show fine definition and a hint of smokiness. Densely packed and energetic on the palate, offering bitter cherry and blackberry flavors that unfold slowly with air and show sharp delineation. The blue fruit note carries through an impressively long, spicy finish shaped by fine-grained, even tannins

93-94pt, Josh Raynolds, vinous

2018 Cornas Les Ruchets, J-L Colombo @ £235 per 6

Les Ruchets (beehives) was the first vineyard Jean-Luc purchased. Les Ruchets is a single parcel vineyard at an elevation of 220m with granitic soil on the famously steep slopes of “Chaillot” in Cornas, surrounded by green oaks and junipers. The low yielding vines are up to 90 years old. 
This inky, intensely plummy Syrah balances rich, pulsating black-fruit flavors against lip-smacking cassis and accents of tapenade, charcuterie and blood. Sourced from 90-year-old vines and aged 22 months in oak (15% new), the penetrating wine is framed by fine, firm tannins and lingering notes of vanilla, chocolate and earth. Drink 2023–2040

 96pt, Wine Enthusiast

Maybe a touch more concentrated than Colombo's la Louvée bottling but also having a slightly coarser, more open-knit texture, the 2018 Cornas les Ruchets leads off with hints of mint, fennel, crushed stone and blackberries. It's full-bodied and rich, expansive and generous without crossing over into being jammy, with savory notes of black olives and roast meat to balance out the ripe fruit and a lingering, softly tannic finish. 

94pt, Joe Czerwinski, The Wine Advocate

2018 Cornas La Louvée, J-L Colombo @ £250 per 6 

La Louvée (female wolf) is a 0.8ha single parcel vineyard on part of the “La Côte” slope on the emblematic granitic soil of the Cornas region. Made up of old vines up to 70 years in age, the vineyard faces south and is protected by a cedar and Holm oak forest. It is the lowest altitude vineyard at 180 metres.
Lavishly floral compared to Colombo's meatier, more earthen bottlings, La Louvée focuses on intensely ripe blackberry and blueberry flavors dusted with a shower of basalt and struck granite. Satiny on the palate and held upright by piercing black-currant acidity, this sleek, supple Syrah is ready now but should improve through 2035 and hold longer still. 

96pt, Wine Enthusiast

Complex array of fresh dark fruit, floral and succulent herb qualities on the highly perfumed nose. A vibrant mineral note gains volume as the wine opens up and carries onto the palate, which shows excellent clarity to the juicy cherry liqueur, cassis and spicecake flavors. Mixes depth and liveliness with a sure hand and shows fine definition and mineral thrust on a very long, gently tannic finish. 

94-95pt, Josh Raynolds, vinous

2018 Cornas Le Vallon de L’Aigle, J-L Colombo @ £415 per 3
Le Vallon de L’Aigle (valley of the eagle) is a wine made only during the best vintages and in tiny quantities, usually only 4-5 barrels. The single vineyard plot is only 0.3ha, in a natural amphitheater made up of three terraces which are part of the “Arlette” slope, surrounded by a forest of green oaks. This is the highest altitude single vineyard parcel and faces south-east with 70+ year old vines. Yields are low – only three clusters per vine. 
Notes of charred earth, salt and iron collide with piercing blackberry and plum in this opulent yet sharply filigreed Syrah. The producer's flagship Cornas, this bottling is made only in outstanding vintages from the free-run juice of low-yielding 70-year-old vines. Glossy and rich yet weightless and airy, it's delicious in youth but has decades of evolution ahead. Drink through 2040 

98pt, Wine Enthusiast

Not bottled every vintage, the 2018 Cornas Vallon de l'Aigle looks worthy of the name. From a single parcel of old, south-facing vines, it seamlessly marries herbal nuances of mint and licorice with dark berries and grilled beef into a harmonious, savory bouquet. Full-bodied but fresh and silky, it's deceptively easy to drink. It finishes long with a dusting of cedar and crushed stone. 

95pt, Joe Czerwinski, The Wine Advocate

Powerful aromas of ripe black/blue fruits, candied flowers, olive paste and exotic spices are sharpened by a building mineral nuance. Densely packed and energetic on the palate, offering bitter cherry, blueberry, licorice and fruitcake flavors that unfurl slowly with air and take on a subtle cola note. The blue fruit note drives a strikingly long, floral-accented finish that's given grip by fine-grained, steadily building tannins. 

95-96pt, Josh Raynolds, vinous

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