Jaboulet Cornas 1991
Following on from my two week exploration of Hermitage (a very limited exploration I suppose) I thought I might continue the regional theme for a short while, and continue to look at some of the other appellations of the Northern Rhône. Although the next port of call might naturally have been Crozes-Hermitage, the vineyards of which abut those of Hermitage and extend back from the hill itself, it is not that far to Cornas either, and indeed I have decided that this shall be the next stopover on this short tour of the region.
The Cornas vineyards are set back from the river somewhat, certainly in comparison to the vines of Hermitage which overlook the water. As a consequence they are sheltered from the moderating influence of the river, and the cooling breezes that may wander up and down the valley. As a consequence they are some of the earliest ripening vineyards in the Northern Rhône, with the harvest starting typically a week before Hermitage. And although well known, like Hermitage the total area under vine is not huge; the vineyards only extend a kilometre or so alongside the N86, and cover little more than 100 hectares. Underfoot there is granite, the same granite that extends across central France as the Massif Central. In the northern area there is also limestone, and the vines, being at a higher altitude, yield a fresher wine. The central zone also has some clay, and gives wines which are perhaps the most typical of Cornas; firm, tannic and rich, demanding long cellaring. To the south, the third zone has more decomposed soils, and a less brutal style.
Although today Jaboulet's leading Cornas is from the Domaine St-Pierre, which was acquired in 1993, before this the wine was sourced from vines in Reynards, in the central zone, just to the west, perhaps north a little, of the town of Cornas itself. Thus this is likely to be the source of this wine, the 1991 Cornas from Jaboulet which, as the label clearly reveals, was a bottling specially selected by the UK's Wine Society. For that reason I'm quite sure there will be a number of readers who have a bottle or two of this tucked away in the cellar, so hopefully this note will be of interest to them. Unusually the label declares an alcohol concentration of 12.9%, a precision rarely seen today. In the glass it has a very deep colour, a red-black core still, with a red garnet rim; it certainly has an impressive appearance considering it is approaching its 17th birthday. The nose initially gives lots of deep fruit, which offers much promise. Then there comes a more animal vein, a little hot-smoked-barbecue note and even a touch of caramel. On the palate the tannins are ripe, well integrated although showing a flourish on the endpalate. There is good, well-balanced acidity and deep, furry fruit. Overall it is rich, textured but well held together, with lots of extract and weight. Little notes of orange and apple skin add complexity, and the finish is imbued with a drop of caramel, more prominent than on the nose. A very enjoyable wine good for current drinking, although there is certainly no hurry, and indeed this may show further development yet. 17+/20 (21/1/08)