Cornas is a tiny appellation. Its 145 hectares (compare to Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s 3,133) are at the southern end of the Northern Rhône. The name Cornas comes from the Celtic word for “burnt earth,” and its grapes often ripen two weeks earlier than the rest of the region.
But its wines are anything but tiny. For years Cornas’s reputation has been for richness and ruggedness. The first quality remains true: these are inky, chewy wines made from hard granite soil. But “ruggedness” needs some revision. A younger generation has brought modern winemaking to the ancient vineyards, and the results are more refined than ever before.
Cornas hasn’t given up its untamed spirit, but the new wave of winemakers has bought it nicer clothes and taught it some manners. And none more expertly than the Domaine du Tunnel.
The Domaine du Tunnel is often cited as one of the best sources in the appellation. Named for an old railway tunnel that now houses the domaine’s exquisitely designed cuverie, these wines are a highlight of any Cornas collector’s cellar. It took us years to secure an allocation here, and the wines themselves have lived up to every bit of hype.
Tunnel’s 2016 Cornas is classic and excellent. The nose shows inky, woodsy flavors — violets and blackberry mix with underbrush and mushrooms. The fruit is clean, and dense and pure and the finish unimaginably long. Josh Raynolds of Vinous awarded 92 points, finding “fine-grained tannins,” and “sharply focused black and blue fruit flavors.”
With a winter storm approaching, we can’t think of a better companion than a glass of this.
Tunnel Cornas 2016
bottle price: $59
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