On the right-bank of the Rhône, the vineyard sits on the Eastern slopes of the Massif Central in Cornas, which means “burnt earth” in old Celtic. The abrupt, south-facing slopes form a natural amphitheatre that protects the vines from cold winds. South-facing vines mature early, which is why this appellation is the first red to be harvested in the Northern Côtes du Rhône.
Syrah is the only variety of grape used in this appellation, and is able to express its full flavour. Cornas is a very dark red wine: almost black with purplish tints when young, becoming amber with age. It is one of the most robust French wines. These wines age superbly: their tannins round over time and it develops aromas of black fruits, with a spiced, “licorice” finish.
As all northern red crus, Cornas is made from Syrah: the only variety of grape permitted throughout the entire appellation. The terroir brings out its strength, and gives the wines made here a rich substance and dark, almost black, colour. These wines age very well and hold aromas of summer fruits that, with age, acquire a spiced, licorice, finish as the tannins become more round. From roasted cocoa when young, this AOC’s wines develop aromas of leather, musk, pepper, and truffles.
Cornas’ vineyards are very old, dating from ancient times. The first terraces and “chaillées” (walls) were likely made by the Romans. Legend has it that Charlemagne himself tasted the wine when travelling through Cornas in the year 840, and liked it so much that he had some sent on to his residence in Aix la Chapelle. Saint Louis, Louis XI, Charles Quint, Richelieu, and Louis XV are some of the more famous Cornas lovers.
The first written evidence of Cornas wine can be found in the 10th century, when a canon from Viviers mentioned the church in Cornas that was “surrounded by vines”. In 1763, a document describes a “strong wine” that was produced in Cornas. The Appellation was awarded in 1938, and was originally limited to 100 hectares in the single county, but was extended in 1960 and quadrupled in volume.