Your Wine IQ

Cornas


Wine By Region Right Europe Right France Right Rhône Right Northern Rhône Right Cornas


The Cornas region is a top place for varietal Syrah. The name is Celtic for "burnt earth"; as a result of the hot climate, the region has long been one of the more underrated appellations of the northern Rhône. The wines are much less expensive than those of neighboring Hermitage. Formerly very rustic and hard to drink, the wines have become more modern in style and hence are gaining in popularity.

At only 235 acres, this is one of the smaller appellations of the Rhône. About 15,000 cases of wine are produced annually. No white wines are produced.

History

Cornas wine is known to have become popular in the Middle Ages. AOC status was granted in 1938.

Climate and Viticulture

With a more varied climate than many of the more Mediterranean-situated appellations, Cornas has hot summers and cold winters, usually a bad combination for winemaking. The vineyards' direct exposure to sunlight gives Cornas its name. The soil is also rather low-quality, with granite, chalk and clay as opposed to limestone and schist. But the producers of the Cornas overcome tremendous viticultural disadvantage and make wines that surpass their terroir. They tend to cultivate the raw, powerful side of the Syrah grape in a fashion that would be impossible in cooler climates.

Grape Varieties

All Cornas wine is varietal Syrah, which means the wines have the typical Syrah flavor notes of black pepper and herbs. In Cornas, the hot climate adds differentiating flavors of powerful cooked game, warm smoke, and inky, black fruit notes. Occasionally, a powerful mineral element can even intrude, which is rare in red wines, especially Syrahs. These rich, broad wines can last for a couple of decades easily and can be too strong when drunk early.

Major Producers

Quality is generally high here due to the small size and low production levels. We select seven producers whose wines are particularly remarkable.

Subregions

Cornas has two subregions, neither of them officially delineated: Les Chaillots and La Côte. Côte wines are often derived as Coteaux, while Chaillots can be rendered Chaillot. It takes experts to tell the difference between the resulting wines.