Secretive and steep-sloped, Cornas will reward patience and curiosity, eventually unveiling its rich complexity.Christophe Tassan
On the right-bank of the Rhône, the vineyard sits on the Eastern slopes of the Massif Central in Cornas, which means “burnt earth” in old Celtic. The abrupt, south-facing slopes form a natural amphitheatre that protects the vines from cold winds. South-facing vines mature early, which is why this appellation is the first red to be harvested in the Northern Côtes du Rhône.
Syrah is the only variety of grape used in this appellation, and is able to express its full flavour. Cornas is a very dark red wine: almost black with purplish tints when young, becoming amber with age. It is one of the most robust French wines. These wines age superbly: their tannins round over time and it develops aromas of black fruits, with a spiced, “licorice” finish.
As all northern red crus, Cornas is made from Syrah: the only variety of grape permitted throughout the entire appellation. The terroir brings out its strength, and gives the wines made here a rich substance and dark, almost black, colour. These wines age very well and hold aromas of summer fruits that, with age, acquire a spiced, licorice, finish as the tannins become more round. From roasted cocoa when young, this AOC’s wines develop aromas of leather, musk, pepper, and truffles.
Cornas’ vineyards are very old, dating from ancient times. The first terraces and “chaillées” (walls) were likely made by the Romans. Legend has it that Charlemagne himself tasted the wine when travelling through Cornas in the year 840, and liked it so much that he had some sent on to his residence in Aix la Chapelle. Saint Louis, Louis XI, Charles Quint, Richelieu, and Louis XV are some of the more famous Cornas lovers.
The first written evidence of Cornas wine can be found in the 10th century, when a canon from Viviers mentioned the church in Cornas that was “surrounded by vines”. In 1763, a document describes a “strong wine” that was produced in Cornas. The Appellation was awarded in 1938, and was originally limited to 100 hectares in the single county, but was extended in 1960 and quadrupled in volume.
View the decrees granting appellation status (INAO)1938Birth of AOC Cornas
The Appellation’s territory sits between 125m and 400m above sea level, and is contained in Cornas alone, in the Ardèche on the right-bank of the Rhône, 7km from Valence and 12km from Tournon. To the north it borders Saint Joseph, and St Peray is to the south.
Mediterranean climate. The terroir is South facing, very steep, and bathed in sunlight.
The terroir is made up of a semicircle of hills that face south and south-east, protecting the vineyard from the Mistral wind and therefore excessive changes in temperature. The vineyards are planted on craggy slopes which have been cut into narrow, unstable terraces, known locally as “chaillées”. The soil is mainly made up of often decomposed granite, resulting in clay like sands known as “gores”, between two limestone faults (Rocher de Crussol and Rocher de Rochepertuis). In addition to these “gores” is a silt deposit, apart from in the north where limestone is prevalent.
surface area131 hectares
Total production3 965 hl
- 100% Red
Sales4 163 hectolitres
Export*28% exported abroad
Average yield achieved30 hl/ha
*Export figures according to the most recent research
Source : Harvest statement 2013