The popularity of the wines from the Northern Rhone Valley have erupted over the last decade. Very few regions have seen spikes in prices like the traditional 100% Syrahs from the Cornas appellation. Personally, falling hard for the wines of Thierry Allemandover the years have set my eyes continually on today's more under-the-radar producers. Allemand's $150+ bottles are unrivaled, but at half the price there's undoubtedly no producer that deserves more immediate attention than Guillaume Gilles.
There's an unapologetic, sauvage, and delicious quality to Gilles's traditional wines that's simply bona fide Cornas. Each time I find myself being thrilled at the unadulterated soul of Syrah that Cornas inhabits like no other place on earth. These are the among the most authentic in all of France, and they connect to a very different time of generations past.
Cornas is southernmost red wine appellation in the Northern Rhone Valley, and is essentially a south-facing amphitheater of steeply terraced granite slopes. The protection offered here from the fierce mistral wind of the valley gives a decidedly more robust and forward quality as compared to Hermitage and Côte Rôtie to the north.
Gilles's education came alongside the greats of the Northern Rhone. Jean-Louis Chave of Hermitage, and the now-retired legendary Robert Michel of Cornas. Today, Gilles farms only 2.5 hectares, working by hand the famed Chaillot vineyard (above) that he leased from Michel. His traditional approach means whole cluster fermentation, aging in large neutral barrels, and no fining or filtering.
That quintessential combination of roasted meats, violets, blackberries, black pepper, and the granitic "scorched earth" that Cornas derives its name from is always front and center. But, the real magic is how seamless Gilles is able to present the entire picture.
While producers like Allemand have seen prices skyrocket (and deservedly so), and older Nöel Verset demanding $600+ per bottle, now is a crucial time to get ahead of the curve and recognize the talents in today's collectible Cornas of Guillaume Gilles.
2013 Guillaume Gilles Cornas
$71 per bottle.
A cooler vintage of structured, taut, and very deep wines. A personal favorite that will evolve beautifully over time.
2012 Guillaume Gilles Cornas
$70 per bottle.
A warm vintage of more soft, dark, fleshier wines that present great early drinking appeal, with softer tannins.
2008 Guillaume Gilles Cornas 1.5L
$149 per bottle.
A mineral-driven vintage that still presents great forward fruit and concentration rarely seen in most 2008's.