Tour de France without bikes but with wine

This year the main theme on my blog has been wine. I had the occasion to visit some vineyards across Europe, in Spain, Italy and Portugal and learn lots of new things . When my wife told me she had to travel to San Diego for a few weeks for business I saw this as the perfect opportunity to organize myself a little French wine trip together with one of my best friends Carlos. The main reason for traveling to France was because it is the wine country I know less about … so I found it the time to learn more about French wines 🙂 . The other reason is/was knowing that in a few months my daughter will be born and visiting vineyards will be out of the question for a while :-)… Reason enough not to travel to just 1 wine region, but to make it through 3 French wines regions… Going from Cornas (Rhône), through Beaune (Bourgogne) to end up in Damary (Champagne). It seemed very logical to start our trip with the most distant location which in this case was Cornas at the Jean-Luc Colombo vineyard. For people who are already following me for a while ‘Jean-Luc Colombo’ might sound familiar because I did already talk about their wines. A few years ago I had a sommelier lunch in company of the lovely Laure Colombo (daughter of…) who introduced us the world of their (Rhône) wines resulting that I their vineyard has been on my ‘wish/to do’ list ever since!

Jean-Luc Colombo

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Jean-Luc Colombo’s vineyard is as mentioned located in Cornas, a town in the Northern part of the Rhône wine country where the main grape (aka cepage) used for the Red wines is Syrah (aka Shiraz for the Australians) and for the white wines Viognier and Marsanne. I emphasize that there vineyard is in the Northern part, is because there is a big distinction that can be made between Northern and southern… already starting with the use of different grapes as  in the Southern part of the Rhône they mainly use the Grenache grape for the red wines. (Find here the complete grape list used in the Rhône region). We also couldn’t have picked a better day as it was the most beautiful (sunny) day they had in weeks… Unfortunately Laure wasn’t able to join us for the visit as she was held up in the UK… but she left in the good hands of Florie who revealed some Colombo’s ‘secrets’ for making a good Rhône wine. I did found it a pity I didn’t get to see where the magic happens aka winemaking itself is done, I would have really enjoyed to see it… on the other hand I did get to walk through the vines on a very sunny day and had a taste of some of their wines. When driving through this region I also got why people like coming here 🙂 Beautiful region

Rhone valley by winefoly

What I have learned over the last year is that there are so many different ways of winemaking, everybody tries to find his/her way to make the perfect wine year in year out… as they also keep perfecting and exploring their techniques or even finding new/better techniques . Obviously it are still the grapes itself that play the main role on how the wine will be, but it takes the masters touch/hand to turn the grape juice into a wonderful wine!! Just like an artist who is making a new painting or sculpture…

A few more facts(besides the grapes, but I already told you about that) I want to share with you like for example that 89% of the wine they produce in the Rhône valley is red wine and only 4% white wine… another important thing to know is that from the 5 soil types in Rhône Valley the Colombo family chose the most difficult to work with 🙂 as in Cornas there is a granite, basically a very hard soil and yet the vines seem to survive already hundreds of years and they have roots that grown up to 15 meters underground to find nutrition…Also all the little green areas (small forests) between the vineyards are protected by law as they have a very big influence on . The Cornas vineyards are as mentioned very old and go back to the 9th and 10th century!! Legend has it that Charlemagne himself tasted the wine when traveling through Cornas in the year 840, and liked it so much that he had some sent on to his residence in Aix la Chapelle…Historical !! 🙂

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A big difference between the Jean-Luc Colombo vineyards and the ones from their colleague winemakers in the region is the way they plant and grown their vines. At the Colombo vineyard they grown the like rose arches (see picture below and I’m sure you’ll get what I’m talking about). One of the reasons for this is that this way the grapes won’t touch the soil. Something we also noticed was that they used tree bark in-between the vines, this is to keep the coldness underground and to keep the grass from growing in-between the vines…

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Knowing that 89% of the wines produced in the Rhône valley are red, it won’t come as a surprise that most of the wines in the Jean-Luc Colombo range are red, but they do also have a few nasty white ones that I didn’t expect to find in this region… Trying all their wines would have been a too much, so Florie made a selection of her own favorites that she was sure would be of our liking. We started with tasting 2 white wines, the La Redonne with its fresh and very floral smell  and the Belle de Mai that had not such an open smell, but you have a light buttery, nutty and woody scent. My preference went to the 2nd one because it had a richer taste eventhough the scent of the first was sooo nice 🙂 . The favorite reds were without  ‘Les Méjéans’ that some very nice hinds of raspberry and was very mineral.   The ‘Les Terres Brûlées’ on the other hand had  a more concentrated scent of red fruits (jam), the taste was as lovely . Last but definitely not least was the ‘Les Ruchets‘ which maybe is my n°1 (of the wines we tasted that is), it was most complex/strong wine we tasted… I think it would even be better to enjoy it with some red meat of stronger cheeses… I know it were my favorites as I bought some bottles to drink at home 🙂 I’m also trying to describe the wines in the best way (not being a professional doesn’t make it easier)

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Something nice to know is that all the names of the wines reference to parts of the city of Marseille where Jean-Luc Colombo is originally from. All drawings you’ll find on the labels of the bottles were designed by a local Cornas artist if I remember it right.

Sun, great wine, a lovely young lady joinng us… can  you imagine a better way to spend a day?? Great start for our first stop on this French wine trip!!

BTW, I’m getting better and better keeping my blogposts “shorter” 😉

To be continued….

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