Domaine Lionnet

France, Rhône

We came across the wines of Domaine Lionnet purely by chance one day at the Marché-Aux-Vins in Ampuis. On a walk across the bridge from Tain l’Hermitage to Tournon to blow away the cobwebs, we took a detour into a dusty wineshop full of Rhône treasures. Here the caviste, when asked for the up-and-coming domaines of the region, guided us a bottle of Cornas Terre Brulée and a love affair began.

More than an infatuation, the wines seem to get better with every vintage. Already the 2021 is extraordinarily good and is drinking now - we cannot wait to see how the 2022s develop, they tasted remarkable from barrel in October.

This is a truly lovely estate that is run immaculately by Corinne & Ludovic. Ludovic Izerable came to this domaine by marriage to Corinne, the daughter of Pierre and granddaughter of Michel Lionnet. She took the reins in 2003. The Izerables immediately converted the domaine to organic farming and have been certified since 2009.

The word 'Cornas' derives from the Celtic word for 'burnt earth' hence the name of the Domaine's flagship cuvée 'Terre Brûlée'. The domaine is a mere 4 hectares, in Cornas and Saint Joseph. In the latter, their vines are in Châteaubourg, the southernmost village of the appellation, at 300m altitude. In Cornas, they have 7 parcels of vines, mostly between 40 and over 100 years old, with one parcel of young vines planted in 2008. No pesticides, herbicides or commercial fertilisers are used, and the soil is worked by horse and a small caterpillar-tracked machine.

The grapes are handpicked and vinified as whole bunches - nothing is added at any stage and the vinification takes place with naturally occurring yeasts. As a result, the harvest has to be ultra-clean and that contributes to the aromatic purity of the wines. After the alcoholic fermentation with pigeage the free run wine is drawn off and the marc is pressed gently in a vertical press from the 19th century. The malolactic fermentation is allowed to take place in resin or stainless steel vats, and only once completed do the wines get racked and transferred to barrel for two winters - a total of 18 months - half in 225l and half in demi-muids of 600l. No new wood is used. The wines are then bottled without fining or filtration.