Vincent Paris has truly come into his own. This 40 year old native son of the steep Granite terraces of sleepy Cornas is making pure, unadulterated expressions of an essence of Northern Rhone syrah that bring to mind the greatness of traditionalist growers such as Thierry Allemand and Auguste Clape, his direct neighbors in his vineyards. After his uncle, Robert Michel, retired in 2006, there was a bidding war between many of the valley’s greatest producers, Jean Louis Chave among others, to purchase the coveted old vines that his family has owned for four generations in the Reynard sector, in particular the very old vines of the Geynale lieu dit. At the end of the day, it was a family affair, blood being thicker than mud (as Sly Stone would put it); his uncle passed on the opportunity for what seemed to be a sky-is-the-limit price tag, preferring to sell to his nephew far below “market value”. Some things aren’t just about money. Familial heritage and transcendence still have a place above all else in the values of many vignerons of the world……
Whilst Vincent began his domaine in 1997, there were many years of trial and error, some successes and failures as he sculpted his own identity and style. Slowly and surely, he has polished out the overly rustic qualities often found in the appellation, harmonized being non-interventionist with cleanliness, and has allowed a certain unadulterated purity of the old vine stony depth to stand naked in the foreground. The reds are vinified first in tank, then aged in neutral old barrique, at least 2 years old. The critical world has taken notice, his collections from 2008 onward have been reviewed at the top of the heap alongside the prestigious historical greats (with their ever increasing fetishized $$$).
When I met with Vincent last Sunday, we walked the vineyards on a Mistral inflected blustery day; we often had to wait for the wind to die down to even be able to hear one another speak. This signature strong cooling wind is part of what gives these wines their sense of balance, allowing for relatively low natural alcohol with preserved acidity. The old vines and pure Granite soils allow for paltry yields of small berries, with a natural concentration and intensity of color, fruit, and stone.
Pictured above is Vincent standing at the foot of his parcel in La Geynale. He owns a smidge over 1 hectare in what may be the finest single lieu dit in the appellation, planted by his great grandfather. As it sits towards the bottom of the slope in the Reynard sector, it contains much of the decomposed Granite from the hillside above, rendering it an even stonier terroir. Allemand has a small portion of Geynale next to Vincent, that he blends into his Reynard bottling. Conversely, Vincent is neighbors with Allemand in his upper slope Reynard vineyards, which Vincent blends into his Geynale.
In the cellars, we tasted through his in bottle 2012s. Man oh man, these wines just plain kick major ass. In fruit density, ripeness, freshness, and stoniness, his 2012 collection is a smashing success that surely will rival his superlative 2010 collection, a “vintage of the century” sort of an ideal. Vincent said himself that these ’12s are right there alongside the ’10s, if not surpassing them at the level of the Granit 60 and Geynale. They are fully phenolically ripe (fully ripe, fine grained tannin), with integrated bright acidity. I’ve included some specific tasting notes alongside each wine below. Mark my words, when the critics chime in, these will all be right there at the top of the heap once again.
As a person, Vincent has a gentle and kind manner, a bit introverted. Like his wines, there is a sincerity and authenticity that is undeniable. I’ve got pretty good instincts about people, and this guy is a good egg through and through. He has two young children, ages 2 and 8, little girl and boy respectively. His years of hard work and sacrifice are now paying off, allowing for a stable base upon which his young family can grow. He deserves every bit of it……AND THE WINES:
2012 St Joseph “les Cotes” $25 – From a single parcel in the town of Ardoix, about 30km north of Cornas. These steep slopes offer quintessential northern Rhone Syrah character in spades. As real estate has run out of room in more heralded appellations such as Cornas, many producers are flocking here as a new frontier of untapped potential. The ’12 is absolutely deeelicious; it has at once a lusciousness and great vibrancy and energy. Vincent says that this bottle is dangerously drinkable; open bottles disappear surprisingly fast (where did it all go?). On my short list of greatest values in northern Rhone syrah. An ideal everyday gourmand red.
2012 Cornas Granit 30 $35 – From vines at both the bottom of the slope (Patou sector) and the very top of the slope (St Pierre sector), ages 10-15 years old. The average slope of the vineyards is 30 degrees, hence its name. 15-20hl/ha!!! yields in 2012. This has fantastic purity, full phenolic ripeness, with dusty grippy yet fine tannin. The Granitic face of Cornas begins to show its adolescent face with this cuvee. A great intro to his Cornas holdings, in an easy to approach style.
2012 Cornas Granit 60 $55 in 750ml, $109 in Magnum – From 60 degree!! steep slopes of 60+ year old vines in the upper Reynard sector as well as terraces at the bottom of the hill. This is a powerhouse of deep impact with solid grip. This is an entirely other level of old vines on Granite. 1/3 whole cluster inclusion. This is bonkers good, and could go toe to toe with any wine in the appellation. Its floral, black fruited intensity and mineral grip go on and on and on. FUCK THIS IS GOOD.
2012 Cornas la Geynale $65 in 750ml, $129 in Magnum – From the single vineyard lieu dit Geynale parcel in the Reynard sector planted by Vincent’s great grandfather. Some vines here are prephyloxera, over 100 years old. 100% whole cluster fermented, tiny yields around 22hl/ha. This has even more matiere (literally “material”, a good French word meaning terroir driven substance), an even more pronounced minerality. It is a black hole of deep black fruits and violets, with even finer tannin structure than the 60. This is quite literally as good as Cornas gets, folks; as good if not surpassing the knockout 2010. This one got the @#$#@ tasting note. A testament to the elements, an essence of Cornas. CHAPEAU VINCENT! (Hats off Vincent!) DON’T MISS THIS ONE FOLKS…..
Everything is bottled and ready to go, so once I submit my order I should be able to pickup immediately, arriving stateside at the end of December, early January. His 2011 reds are in stock now, if you’d care to take a gander……a tenderer vintage that is great in its own right.
If you are a fan of Northern Rhone Syrah in a more purist style (think Allemand, Benetiere, Clape etc), I cannot stress enough what amazing values these wines represent. I have a feeling that they will not always be, as the critical spotlight continues to shine on just how good Vincent’s work is. I tasted the pre-malo ’13s as well, and based on my experiences, they too will turn out very very well. He has found his stride……
As always, with any questions or interests: email@example.com
CHEERS TO THE GEYNALE, MECCA OF SYRAH ON GRANITE! TO VINCENT’S ANCESTORS, AND HIS YOUNG NEXT GENERATION!!!