One of the three great Northern Rhone appellations Cornas covers a little over one hundred hectares – smaller than a lot of estates in Italy and Bordeaux. The Lionnet family* have been growing grapes in Cornas since 1575 and the current generation own just three- and one-half hectares in the vignoble.
Corinne Lionnet and her husband Ludovic Izérable have been making Cornas since 2003. Their Domaine has been practising organic farming since 2007 and the winemaking is ‘hands off’ with natural yeasts doing the work in whole bunch fermentation.
Corinne has encouraged more Domaine bottling since the couple started making Cornas with her family’s vines. They have moved from exporting ten percent of their production soon after starting to exporting seventy percent of their production in 2018.
This high level of export shows they have built up a good international reputation for themselves. Despite this, their wines have remained quite affordable as you can see by looking at the complete list of Lionnet Cornas vintages available (type Lionnet into the search box at the top right of Blast’s wine list) at their UK agent Blast Vintners.
If you look at the Blast list, you will see the Lionnet Cornas Terre Brulee from the top bunny 2018 vintage is less than half the price of the less-stellar 2014 vintage of Clape. (Blast also have the wondewrful 2016 and 2017 vintages in stock for less money than the bargain price of the stunning 2018 – I will take either the 17 or 18, please;)
How do I know the 2018 vintage of Lionnet is stunning? Because I have tasted it, of course! Here is the note:
Cornas ‘Terre Brulee’ 2018, Domaine Lionnet
This Lionnet Cornas 2018 is so dark the room dimmed as I poured our tasting samples as it sucked in photons from the surrounding area. Normally whole bunch fermentations lose some colour into the stems, but this is an exception. Ripe Syrah stems contain (depending on the clone) anthocyanins so add colour. This 2018 Cornas is so very ripe!
A sniff… Heaven!
There are delightful aromas: flowers, Parma Violets, perfectly ripe blackberries, loganberries and blackcurrants, and an ethereal sense of crushed rock.
There are dark, brooding aromas: grilled meat, cooking blood, burning vines and a singed earthiness.
Then there are no aromas at all: NO SHIT STINK!! It is not suffused with Brett-y poo characteristics in the slightest, Lionnet Cornas is clean as a whistle! Whooooooooohoooooooooo! Wehay!! HOORAY!!!
All the aromas that are present exist in perfect harmony, intertwined in an involute web of earthy complexity. This is an utterly beautiful Cornas nose.
I will have a taste. Cripes, it is bastard tannic! A South African Syrah producer would be chuffed as ninepence to make a wine as tannic as this.
Tannin is not a problem when one is making Cornas – it is supposed to be tannic, you see? A Cornas without tannin would be like a June day without a shower; like London without dog poo mixed with broken glass; like Peterborough without massed ranks of scum! It needs the tannin!
This tannin is a strong antioxidant and so will preserve this Lionnet Cornas 2018 through a long life.
However, as we know, from many a rant, tannin alone will not allow a wine to age. It needs to have harmony between all its elements otherwise it will dry out like an old Comte de Vogue wine.
There is no denying this Lionnet Cornas 2018 has harmony. There is an abundance of fruit on the palate, deliciously ripe black and dark red berries bursting with juice for you to rub into your nak… for you to slake your thirst with. This is allied with a beautiful set of floral flavours – again I think of Parma Violets when I taste these. If you do not know the sweet, I assure you they are a veritable manna from heaven.
The Lionnet Cornas 2018 has burnt earth and grilled meat flavours as well. All these flavours spin into the tannin synergistically to create a brilliant edifice of rigour, delight, balance and harmony that should thrill any lover of quality Syrah. This is as fine an example of the Cornas idiom of Syrah as it gets!
Lionnet Cornas 2018 is brilliant, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Buy it NOW!
If I may add one final note. I do not approve of leaving a bottle with wine in it to drink the second day. However, I left a few glasses of this just to do the experiment. When I woke at four the following morning, I had three big glasses that showed it had lost a hint of its livid, intense, refulgent liveliness, but gained a hint of mellow, peacefulness. This will age, oh yes it will age. I then went to sleep for another six hours and had amazingly weird dreams.
Get to Blast Vintners as quickly as you can click that link and buy! Buy!! BUY!! Blast’s list is full of goodies and delights with which to pleasure yourself. If I may mention just one, selling Bandol from Chateau Pradeaux (to age until it is twenty, natch) is a brilliant mark of a fine list to all of us who are planning to live for a while yet.
*Very long-time followers of Elitistreview will know that I used to revel in the Cornas of Jean Lionnet. He is related but, if memory serves, the family branched at the grandfather-level.