Auguste Clape Cornas 1997
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Auguste and son Pierre-Marie try to harvest late each year, a risk considering the possibility of rain close to harvest time. No new wood is used; the wine is raised for 18 months in older barrels and foudres. The key to complexity, according to the Clapes, is vinification of each vineyard separately. Before bottling, a blend is decided upon which harmonizes the separate components while keeping a unified overall impression. Despite lack of conscious marketing, Clape Cornas had become one of the most reputable names in the northern Rhone, due not only to his consistency from vintage to vintage, but also because it has become the hallmark style of Cornas Syrah, a style now emulated elsewhere in the world.
Distinguished as a fine Syrah producing zone since the 18th century, Cornas, like Cote Rotie, is made up of vineyards covering steep and hard-to-work, granite terraces. As a result the region’s wines fell out of favor during the mid 20th century when the global market was more focused on bulk wines and vineyards that yielded high quantities. It wasn’t until the 1980s when a group of energetic young winemakers reestablished the integrity of these precipitous terraces and also began making an ultra-modern style of Syrah. The new style didn’t need a decade before it was drinkable and could reach the consumer faster than the region’s traditional wines. Given the new quality coming out of the zone, its popularity once again soared and today a good Cornas can easily challenge many of those from Hermitage. Characteristics of Syrah from Cornas include teeth-staining flavors of blackberry jam, plum, pepper, violets, smoked game, charcoal, chalk dust and smoke.
Marked by an unmistakable deep purple hue and savory aromatics, Syrah makes an intense, powerful and often age-worthy red. Native to the Northern Rhône, Syrah achieves its maximum potential in the steep village of Hermitage and plays an important component in the Red Blends of Southern Rhône, adding color and structure to Grenache and Mourvèdre. Syrah is the most widely planted grape of Australia and is important in California and Washington. Sommelier Secret—Such a synergy these three create together, the Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre trio often takes on the shorthand term, “GSM.”