Only a Northern Song (Rhone Valley, France – Day Five)

You can’t imagine how good it felt to return to Lyon, which is still by far my favourite city in France, having made it part of my trip in 2010. I actually spent July 14th (Bastille Day outside of France) in Lyon with a friend, and had enjoyed the fireworks display that launches from the Basilique on top of the hill above old town. Lyon is the third most populated city in France, but has the second largest metropolis. It has a long history dating back to the Roman era, and since this time has always been an important point between different parts of Europe. This made it a very strong trading point, which in my opinion is the reason that arguably the best food can be found in Lyon, ask any French person. You can also find the best and most diverse French wine here, partly because of the vibrant cuisine and bar scene, but also because Lyon is located right in the middle of four of the best regions in France; Rhone Valley to the south, Loire Valley to the north-west, Burgundy to the north, and Jura to the east. Lyon has been growing a lot recently, due to increase in business activity and also many students coming to the universities, many of them international. I’m not sure why it isn’t on more tourists route in France, but I highly recommend it for history, culture and cuisine. It was here that I spend five nights in, and took day trips down into the Northern Rhone Valley, the first day of which I visited Jean-Luc Colombo in Cornas.

Syrah has such a beautiful leaf

Jean-Luc Colombo originally hails from Marseille (the second largest city in France), where his parents were restaurateurs. From a young age he learnt to appreciate fine cuisine and combinations of flavours, as well as the fine wines served in his parents’ restaurants. He didn’t follow in his parents footsteps initially, and went to study chemistry in Montpellier. Here he met his wife, and shared with her his love of cuisine and wine. They then decided to relocate to the Rhone Valley, where Jean-Luc started working as a consultant. Eventually he was able to buy his first vineyards in Cornas, and from here began his own winery. They now produce a range of wine from the many of the appelations of the Rhone Valley, some from estate fruit and some not, and they also are making wine from the Cote Bleu, close to Marseille. Jean-Luc stepped away from consulting, but his business still exists and is run by an employed oenologist. Colombo has a number of parcels in Cornas, which has a similar aspect to Cote-Rotie, but very different soils and climates. Cornas is about 50km south of Cote-Rotie, and can be a lot warmer but no less protected from rain and wind. Syrah is the only variety permitted here, and the wines tend to be a tad fuller and riper than those of Hermitage (west-facing) and Cote-Rotie (further north and cooler). The different parcels are vinified separately, and are sometimes bottled separately. The decision to make the higher quality wines is made before the fruit is even picked, and there is no tank or barrel selection for this wine; it either makes the grade or doesn’t. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to taste any of the top wines, and the wines beneath this are OK but didn’t give me a reasonable picture of the winery. Click here to read my notes from the tasting.

I have seen these red flowers all over Europe

Click here to see more photos from Day Five in the Rhone Valley, France. On Day Six I visit two producers that are very much in the Northern Rhone Valley; Domaine Barges and Pierre Gaillard.

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