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Wine Wednesday: Cornas

By: Cecily Gamba

Happy Wine Wednesday, everyone! It’s that time of the week again for the next stop on our educational adventure through all things Rhône, one sip at a time. This week’s topic: Cornas AOC.

Cornas is a wine AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée - a system for defining French products by the region they come from) in the northern Rhône region that produces 100% red wine, from the Syrah grape. It is south of Lyon, and is one of the smallest regions in the Rhône Valley.

Map via WineFolly.com

The region has been producing wine for a very long time (and we mean a very long time, written sources reference wine in the region as early as 885 BC). Back then, wine was mostly produced for local enjoyment, but some famous fans of the wine include Louis XV and Cardinal Richelieu. It wasn’t until 1938 that the region became an official appellation.

The name Cornas comes from the Celtic for “burnt earth.” Cornas is shielded from the cold le mistral winds, allowing for the grapes to be ripened by the warm sun (hence the name, Cornas!). This wind block allows for so much warmth that Cornas is often the first appellation to begin harvest in the northern Rhône.

Photo ©Christophe Grilhé via Wine-searcher.com

As mentioned, Cornas is a very small appellation, with only about 104 hectares of vineyards. The vineyards are situated along the river, among 11 smaller streams, that provide moisture to the vines. The soils vary from north to south, with the soil in the north being comprised of more granite and limestone, the center characterized by clay, and the south more sandy.

The wines coming from Cornas, being 100% Syrah, are typically very bold and tannic, with blackberry jam, black pepper, charcoal, and smoky flavors on the palate. If laid down, notes of licorice and kirsch will develop after about 10 years.

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