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Verset's Vines in Good Hands - What the Northern Rhone Can Be: 2009 Balthazar Cornas Chaillots

Posted by Ian McFadden on March 16, 2012

The New (Old) Guard
2009 Balthazar Cornas Chaillots
The Greatest Cornas Deal Out There

"The wines express their place faithfully..."
-John Livingstone-Learmonth

This may not sound like much: a faithful expression of place.

However, when it comes to the Northern Rhône, this is a very, very important thing.

Why?

The Rhône's old guard have mostly retired and their bottles are now being hoarded and cherished as a style of winemaking that's all but extinct - names like Verset, Trollat and Gentaz-Dervieux. Watching the wines of these masters disappear has been difficult - there was an unmediated honesty to their wines, something so real and pure. With their disappearance, something very real has been lost...

...but all is not lost.

There is a new generation of great traditionalists. Today, we'd like to introduce a grower who is a very welcomed source of traditional Cornas, Franck Balthazar.

It's worth noting that with the wines of Verset, Trollat and Gentaz disappearing, prices have exploded - even Clape, who is still producing wines, has seen tremendous pricing increases with release bottles now $100 and beyond. The value today is severe.

But perhaps we should go beyond Balthazar to the vines themselves, because the bottling that floored Joe, Stephen and myself when we tasted it last week was the 2009 Chaillot - a wine of which half is sourced from a plot of 97-year-old vines bought from none other than Nöel Verset. 

We've been following Balthazar for a handful of vintages but it does seem that Balthazar has reached a new level in 2009. There's an intensity and purity to the wines that directly brings to mind the wines of the master himself.

Of course, there's more to Balthazar's traditionalist bent than just the vines he bought from Verset. His methods are directly inherited from the old school - stems are included, he raises the wines in old 600-liter demi-muids. He even plows his vineyards with a horse.

The results are impressive. Even in the ripe 2009 vintage, Chaillot maintains a long detailed finish. There's a sense of verve and poise that persists from beginning to end as the wine unleashes a detailed spectrum of spice, minerals, dark fruits and floral notes.

Chaillot is a site that has long been held with a deep respect. Balthazar's winegives you a palpable sense of the firm spine of tannins and sleek minerality that's contributed to the site's reknown. 

It's very heartening to see producers like Balthazar and the Gonon brothers continuing to make soulful Northern Rhônes. While the wines of the old wisemen can't be replicated, it's encouraging to witness people like Balthazar remaining faithful to the Northern Rhône.  

Saying that the wines "express their place faithfully" turns out to be a very important compliment indeed. 

To order, please email us at offers@crushwineco.com or call the store at (212) 980-9463.

Ian McFadden
Director Fine & Rare Wine
Crush Wine & Spirits

2009 Balthazar Cornas Chaillots

Josh Raynolds, IWC: "Inky ruby.  A powerfully scented bouquet evokes black raspberry, boysenberry, cola, candied licorice and potpourri, with a peppery accent adding vivacity.  Stains the palate with sappy black and blue fruit flavors complicated by suggestions of violet pastille and spicecake.  Clings impressively on the finish, which is lively, focused and very long.  This complex wine shows the richness of the vintage but there's nothing heavy or outsized about it."

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