A Meeting With Winemaker Jean Luc Colombo – The Wines Of Cornas

| October 1, 2013

jean luc columboAt a private tasting in Beverly Hills last week DF&W met with winemaker Jean Luc Colombo to learn more about his wines that are all based around his obsession with Syrah grapes. An affable Frenchman with a thick English/French accent, the native of Marseilles developed a strong affinity with the wines of the Rhone Valley as a teenager, and in particular the obscure wines of Cornas.

Building up a reputation as a wine consultant, he then purchased his first vineyard in Cornas and followed up with Languedoc leading to the creation of Vins Jean-Luc Colombo. The 1987 release of his first vintage of Cornas “Les Ruchets” made quite a stir in the French wine industry, and vintage wines have been produced ever since.

His mother was a chef in Marseilles and for the brief time spent with him at lunch, I quickly realized that he believes that the combination of food with the right wine and vice versa is central to his entire thinking. Apparently his hospitality is legendary even to overseas visitors, so after reading this story, send him an e-mail and you might get lucky on your next trip to France.

In 2008, France awarded him the Legion of Honor, the highest recognition a citizen can receive for his service to the wine industry. The following year his wife Anne, who is an oenologist and who set up the Centre of Oenology, also received the award, a rare feat indeed. Now the daughter Laure has joined the business and she is also an oenologist and viticulturist.

Cornas is just 270 acres located on the right bank of the Rhone River with very steep slopes. It is the birthplace of Syrah thanks to the granitic soil and a Mediterranean climate, and the Cornas wines are noted for their structure, complexity and delicacy all at the same time. Flavors are also varied with touches of iris, lilac, black currant and licorice.

There are three recent releases from a vintage 2010 starting with the ‘Terres Brulees’ ($48). Consisting of 100% Syrah, this wine is rich and flavorful, and the grapes are hand harvested from vines about 20 years old and about 1000 feet above sea level. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks and is followed by a 3-week maceration period. It is then aged in oak barrels for 21 months.

‘Les Ruchets’ Cornas 2010’ ($85) is equally as elegant and is harvested from 90-year old vines that are 820 feet above sea level. Maceration is four weeks and aging takes 22 months. This was a powerful wine with a strong finish.

I also had the opportunity to taste ‘La Louvee’ Cornas 2010 ($85) which is grown from 70-year old vines and has a lingering finish of cloves and spice.la louvee cornas

I would also like to recommend his ‘Les Bartavelles’ Chateauneuf du Pape 2011 ($45). Grown from Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre grapes and a jolly good drink, the juice is free run and the wine spends 18 months in a combination of large and small casks. Traces of blueberry, wild herbs and spice linger in this excellent wine.

For more information on this wine and his other offerings from the Rhone region visit the web site below.