Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Jean-Luc Colombo Cornas Les Ruchets

Pretty specific name for a post, right? That's because I am a newcomer to the Cornas appellation. I have tasted a grand total of two Cornas wines, and the first was about four years ago and I don't remember the producer. This post is not about Cornas, or this specific producer. It is about my experiences tasting this one wine, the 1999 Jean-Luc Colombo Cornas les Ruchets, $58 (but I bought mine on Wine Commune for $32).

Before I share some tasting notes, here is the little bit that I can provide as background. The red wines of the Northern Rhone are 100% Syrah (except in Cote-Rotie where a tiny amount of Viogner is sometimes added). Appellations include the imposing and noble duo of Hermitage and Cote-Rotie. Wines from those appellations are quite expensive - well into the triple digits per bottle, particularly for Hermitage. That makes it tough for me to just pick one and give it a try. How would I know where to start?

Maybe in a nearby appellation. St Joseph, Cornas, and Crozes-Hermitage are the other Northern Rhone applellations that produce red wines, and they are more approachable price-wise than Hermitage or Cote-Rotie. Cornas seems to have the best reputation of the three, supposedly offering rustic wines, but high quality wines that provide a glimpse into the glory of Northern Rhone Syrah.

Jaime Goode's site Wine Anorak offers a brief "Spotlight on Cornas" that offers some technical information about the Cornas Appellation and also photos and tasting notes on various wines made by various producers.

I decided about 18 months ago that I wanted to understand something about Syrah - what does great Syrah taste like? We tasted a couple of inexpensive versions from California, both of which tasted like "generic red wine" to me. Then I saw a great deal on three bottles of 1999 Jean-Luc Colombo Cornas Les Ruchets on auction and grabbed it. Les Ruchets is his top cuvee, using grapes from vines that are more than 80 years old and aging in 70% new oak. Click on the link above to get to the Wine Doctor's, as always, informative profile of this producer and negociant.

The bottles arrived with corks protruding slightly over the top of the glass lip. That probably means that the wine was over heated at some point - very annoying, and might mean that the wine will not age well. But that's the chance you take when you buy from an auction site like Wine Commune. I always check corks when buying wine at a store - I like the cork to be under or even with the lip of the bottle.

BrooklynLady and I tried this wine three times over the past year and while we were not completely blown away, I learned that I do want to continue exploring Syrah. I have no idea whether or not the wine was damaged, but we took no chances trying to age it. Here are some notes:

1999 Jean-Luc Colombo Cornas les Ruchets

Dark red, so dark that absolutely no light passes through it even when you hold the glass at an angle up under the light. So dense that it seemed as if it had sediment in suspension, so much of it that it was completely opaque. There was no sediment in any of the three bottles, though. This is without question the inkiest, most dense wine I have ever tasted.

Aromas were far more complex on the second day (we made it to the second day only with the third and last bottle), with distinct road tar, cooked blackberry fruit, uncooked bacon, and dried herbs. An amazing nose that I have never before encountered. Big and chewy in the mouth, but not at all overwhelming. Cassis, cherry cordial, bloody roast meat, and...I know this is weird, but...Boysenberry jam from the bottom of Dannon Boysenberry yogurt. I used to eat it by the gallon as a little kid, so believe me, I know.

This is not wine to have by the glass on its own. It needs food. We enjoyed it at Adam's house a few months ago with his yummy braised short ribs. We enjoyed it again over the past few days with a cassoulet-like white bean stew with chuncks of garlic sausage. I hope to try some more great Syrah this year.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for tasting our wines, I am glad you enjoyed our Cornas. Cornas "burnt earth" in celtic is the only one grand cru from the nothern rhone that is pure Syrah. Our vineyard " les Ruchets" was our very first wine and was released in 1986. It is a steep slope planted with syrah that average about 95 years on granite soil. Yields are extremely low, vineyards are planted in terraces and it is a spectacular terroir. This is an AOC that is finally coming back to life thanks to Jean-Luc and a few others producers and hopefully will keep on getting the recognition it deserves. Many thanks for mentionning this appellation in your blog !
David -

Brooklynguy said...

Hi David,

Thanks for the additional information about the wine. What do you mean by "one grand cru from the northern rhone that is pure Syrah?" Otheres are blends, or others are not grand cru designated? I didn't know there are designates like that in the northern Rhone.

I am sorry I did not link to your website
when I wrote this post.

How would you describe the differences between the three JL Colombo Cornas cuvees?

Thanks for stopping by, take care,