“Talk to Guillaume.”
My preferences in Cornas are the guys aiming for a more traditional approach. You know, no destemming or at least not completely, longer skin contact, larger casks, older casks, no fining and no filtration. That kind of stuff. Cornas simply doesn’t work well the modern way, reducing way too much of its character. Somehow a traditional vinification and aging enhances elegance and a sense of place in the wines. Clape, Vincent Paris, Thierry Allemand or Frank Balthazar are all producers which, in my world, confirms the theory that there’s no school like old-school in Cornas. Don’t take it too static though; of course these guys are not ultraconservative winemakers. They are influenced by modern techniques as well.
I’ve just met Vincent Paris and I’m asking him if there’s any particular I really should meet, someone lesser known than the Clape and Allemand but sharing their philosophy of Cornas.
“Talk to Guillaume. Guillaume Gilles. He’s good.”
Never heard the name before but since Vincent Paris produces some of my absolutely favorite wines in Cornas I guess the man knows what he’s talking about. Guillame Gilles it is!
It takes me about two seconds to realize Guillaume is a real winemaker. A handshake and I notice he has dirt under his nails. Clay? Sand? For sure it’s not granite but he has obviously been working the land this morning. I like the guy instantly. He’s a bit shy and almost blushes when I tell him Vincent sent me. I’m happy he don’t think in Pulp Fiction terms but instead of Paris.
Guillaume tells me about the tiny estate and that he’s trained under the legendary Robert Michel. Actually he is using Michel’s parcel in Cornas, leasing it, to produce his wines. A parcel I guess many would like to have in their possession, located in the Chaillot vineyard. Guillaume is also producing a Côtes-du-Rhône, the Les Peyrouses. Actually Les Peyrouses comes from the flat part in Cornas and hence are not allowed to use the appellation term. Côtes-du-Rhône it therefore is.
The 2011 Les Peyrouses has a depth you don’t associate with the more general and less strict Côtes-du-Rhône. The tiny parcel only produces a few bottles but boy is this good. Classy tannin structure, the cooler fruit of the vintage and length. My instant reaction is of course how to get hold of a case. Gilles tells me the vines are extremely old, dating all the way back to the 1870’s and that he treats the grapes more or less he same way as his entry Cornas! An old family parcel. This is a must find.
I realize that he must feel blessed, to have worked under Robert Michel and now are leasing both the Chaillot vineyard and Michel’s cellar. After all, it takes a long time to start up a traditional cellar and perhaps a main reason why few winemakers of today chooses the old-school from the start?
Guillaume Gilles produces two Cornas labels, La Combe de Chaillot and the Cornas. One for earlier drinking, one cellar bound. 2011 La Combe de Chaillot has for logical reasons if you wish for a more approachable wine already in its youth, been destemmed. It’s still from the Chaillot site but from the parts Guillaume doesn’t want to use for the top wine. I like the violets scents, the more spicy feel compared to Les Peyrouses and the darker fruit. Although destemmed, the tannins are more evident, in need of some time. But the smoke, the wet earth, the structure indicates a sense of place. It’s simply called Cornas. Will handle ten years without any problems. It reminds me slightly of the Renaissance (from the younger vines) of Clape actually.
The grand vin is grand. The label simply says Cornas. Enough said. This is soil talk; something for friends of tannins, muscles and acidity. Drink it now and your dentist will love you. Drink it in 15 years and the wine will thank you. The 2011 Cornas shows oriental spices, violets, dark cherries, smoke and green notes. A tannic level making a Barolo shy, still strangely appealing. I guess the fruit and the mineral driven acidity feel balances it all. Raised in 600 liters barrels. Old ones. Again, what mainly makes me fall for the wine is its purity. Just like Clape. Just like Paris. This is long, pure and packed with personality. God, I love old-school Cornas.
Thanks Guillaume Gilles. You’re the future.