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We're happy to offer the very elegant, natural and terroir-expressive wines of Franck Balthazar in Cornas from this excellent vintage in the Northern Rhône. Balthazar is one of a small group of producers in Cornas practicing organic farming, whole-cluster fermentations and aging in used barrels, incuding growers such as Thierry Allemand and Domaine Lionnet along with Jean and Pierre Gonon, six or seven miles to the north in Saint-Joseph. Says drinkrhone.com "An STGT domaine (soil to glass transfer!). The wines express their place faithfully with tender winemaking in support. Old vine fruit is a key contributor, the base of the wines being the old family vineyard bought in 1930 on Chaillot. This is a classic example of Cornas that carries clear fruit and early tannins requiring 3-4 years to settle." We also appreciate that Franck vinifies and bottles with minimal use of sulfur, giving the wines outstanding purity and aromatic complexity. Beginning in 2012, the estate has produced a tiny quantity of Cornas from young vines made with zero-added sulfur (sans soufre ajouté) which has been quite brilliant in the last few vintages. These are superb Northern Rhone Syrahs, traditionally made but in a natural style, free of excess sulfur and new oak - they are delicious young but will cellar beautifully as well - ten plus years for the "Sans Soufre," fifteen+ years for "Casimir" and 20 - 30 years for "Chaillot."
Opinions among growers in Cornas are mixed regarding the 2018 and 2019 vintage, but it would be safe to say that in 2019 there was more concentration with darker fruit and firm tannins that will enable long aging. Says Frank Balthazar "there was no water and high heat, so the grapes were very concentrated. My yield was just 21 hl/ha, because the grapes remained small through the year. That’s why they were very concentrated, and hence came with very firm tannins." While some growers in Cornas prefered the softer, brighter style of 2018, others, such as Vincent Paris prasied the balance and tanins in the 2019s: "the 2019 weather was very hot, but the wines are balanced, silken, because the tannins are good and ripe – they have depth, and make it a very good vintage."
The 2019 Balthazar Cornas have received excellent reviews, and very little wine is available. We're offering them at low net prices, purchased in NY from the US importer. Arrival mid-October.
2019 Franck Balthazar "Cuvée Casimir, " from DrinkRhone: "75-80% young Syrah vines fruit from La Lègre (firm granite), 20-25% Syrah from Les Mazards (1961, clay, decomposed granite), both sites more the southern sector, 100% whole bunch, 2 week vinification, wild yeasts, pumping overs first, a lot of manual cap punching, pumping over at 1020 to finish sugars, aged 5-year plus 600-litre casks 14-18 months, fined, unfiltered," While the "Casimir" is often enjoyable on release, in the 2019 vintage it's probably best to wait 5 years, drink until 2040+.
2019 Franck Balthazar Cornas "Sans soufre ajouté." From young vines in the vineyards of "La Legre" and "Les Cotes," whole-cluster fermentation, aged in old 600 liter casks, bottled un-fined, unfiltered and with zero added SO2. Recent vintages of the Sans soufre have been brilliant, with very floral, expressive cool fruit. Even with the dark and firm structure of the 2019s, this should be delicious young and over the next ten to fifteen years. Very little is produced.
2019 Franck Balthazar Cornas "Chaillot," from DrinkRhone: "mainly Chaillot (1914 Syrah), plus Mazards (1959, 1961), wild yeasts, whole bunch 2-week fermentation, manual cap punching, aged 5-year plus 600-litre casks 14-18 months, unfined, unfiltered." Given the nature of the vintage, we would suggest putting this away for 10 to fifteen years, then drink until 2045+.