For that seductive combination of wild earthiness and pure-fruited drinkability so unique to Syrah, there's no place on earth like Cornas. It's the southernmost appellation in the Northern Rhône Valley and here Syrah reaches what might be its most archetypal expression. Côte-Rôtie might be more elegant, Hermitage more regal, but nowhere is more Syrah than Cornas. Wild animal savoriness underpins huge black and purple fruit, full body matches bright granitic acidity, and the wines combine structure for decades of cellaring with drink-me-now deliciousness. And in Cornas, no winemaker is hotter than Guillaume Gilles.
Today, we're pleased to offer a small amount of Guillaume Gilles' extraordinary wines, including his new Marsanne/Roussanne and very rare Saint-Peray bottlings.
Cornas is also a place where legends loom large. The winemakers who originally made Cornas what it is, people like Noel Verset and Marcel Juge, have largely retired or passed away. Guillaume was lucky to work for years alongside one of these legends, Robert Michel. And that was after he'd worked under Hermitage legend Jean-Louis Chave! When Michel decided to retire in 2006, he passed down his holdings to his young protegé. As a result, Guillaume inherited some of the best and oldest parcels of Syrah in Chaillot, one of Cornas' two top vineyards. He even inherited Michel's cellar and continues Michel's world-class winemaking.
This is Cornas made the way the legends do it. All vines are farmed organically and by hand, and all fruit is left in whole clusters and fermented with wild/ambient yeasts before being aged in large neutral oak barrels. Despite the ever-rising pressure to produce riper, smoother, oakier and younger-drinking wines, Gilles has persevered as one of the last “purist” producers in Cornas.
While his Cornas is an obvious standout. His "Les Peyrouses" rouge, labeled as a Cotes du Rhone, is anything but, and should not even be thought of as such. From a vineyard just a stone's throw from the Cornas perimeter, it's made from vines that are almost 150 years old. It's a stunning wine and should be spoken of in the same breath as his Cornas.
Guillaume only works about four hectares and only a tiny amount – fewer than 100 cases – made it into the States this year. Quantities are extremely limited, with just bottles of each on some.