A visit to Pierre and Olivier Clape last year found them relatively upbeat despite having lost grape volumes due to heat and drought in 2022 and rainfall and mildew in 2021. They have a deserved reputation for making good wine in challenging vintages. The 2021 wines are unmistakably from a cooler, more less powerful year yielding good acidity and relatively low alcohol. The 2022 wines are fuller and firmer and should make for the long-term.
The Clape's principal Cornas comes from mature rootstock largely located on the 'Reynards' climat in the center of the appellation. With no de-stemming and a 12-day cuvaison in concrete vats, the wine is then matured in various-sized Hungarian oak foudres for 2 years before fastidious blending and bottling. With an inky, purple colour in youth, dense black fruit scents and flavours and a firm tannic structure that will support 20+ years bottle age, it is a benchmark Northern Rhône Syrah.
When volumes and quality permit, the Clapes also produce a second bottling of Cornas called 'Rénaissance' that is made from younger-vine fruit and has an 18-month élevage. Intended to be more fruit-forward than its senior sibling, it still retains all the Clape hallmarks of terrific delineation, balance and finesse. Good vintages will take a decade's bottle age in their stride and it exhibits a wealth of briary black fruit and peppery tannins.
Since 2009, Maxime Graillot and Thomas Schmittel (of Crozes-Hermitage), have produced an excellent négociant bottling of Cornas under their Equis label. Hailing from fruit grown on upper terraces, it has a dark, purple robe, briary hedgerow berry aromas and a black fruit palate with fresh acidity and fine-grained tannins. It drinks well from release - if decanted - and pairs well with small game or wild mushroom dishes.