Domaine Lionnet

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If I recall correctly, Robert Michel, our long-time producer of Cornas, announced to me in late 2004 that he was considering retirement, most probably after the 2006 vintage. There were no plans for succession; his son wasn’t interested in doing the tough, physical work that is required to cultivate the terraced vineyards of Cornas. A few years earlier (1998) we suffered the devastating loss of another of our growers in the northern Rhone, Michel Ferraton, who also retired. So, the specter of Michel’s absence from our portfolio was profoundly disconcerting, particularly because appellations like Cornas and Hermitage (Ferraton’s bailiwick) are very small in area and there are very few growers of exceptional quality. I turned to our grower of Cote Rotie in Ampuis, Bernard Levet, and asked him to help in the search. Shortly thereafter, Bernard called and referred me to the young Ludovic Izerable, someone whose wines he had tasted recently and whose work mirrored his own: only manual work in the vineyard, long cuvaison and elevage of the Syrah using everything in the grape (yes, those very precious stems are part of the package) and superbly-sited vineyards full of old vines within Cornas.

So begins our liaison with the Domaine Lionnet. Ludovic Izerable, a refugee from the Haute Savoie city of Grenoble, married Corinne Lionnet whose family has been growing grapes in the village of Cornas since 1575 (that’s correct … no typo … almost five centuries ago). Corinne took control of the domaine in 2003 when her father, Pierre, retired and she and Ludovic now run the show.

The domaine is quite small, only 2.2 hectares at the moment (additional vineyards will be added to the domaine shortly enabling the Domaine Lionnet to also produce a Saint Joseph). The vineyards are organically farmed and are certified as such by “Ecocert”. The vineyards are divided into four separate parcels across four distinct lieu-dits: Mazards, Combes, Chaillot and Brugeres. The vines are all between the ages of 40 and 100 years! Each parcel is harvested separately and vinification is done parcel by parcel as well. The harvest, of course, is manual with a severe selection being done in the vineyard. The cuvaison is long (three weeks) and the fermentation is completely natural: indigenous yeasts and no other materials whatsoever (no albumin, no enzymes, no gelatins … zero!). The grapes are left intact; they are never destemmed. The fermentation occurs in cement vats; then, the wines are racked into large oak barrels (tonneaux and demi-muids). No new oak is used.

Lionnet-Cornas-Terre-Brulee 2016 Cornas “Terre Brulée” Ludovic and Corinne farm very old plantings (40 to 100 years old) in several notable Cornas vineyards, which are all blended into their single flagship cuvée “Terre Brulée”: Mazards, with 50-year-old vines in granite-inflected soils of clay-limestone, is dark and powerful; Chaillot contributes classic granitic heft and dusty spice; clay-limestone Pied de la Vigne, which flanks Chaillot’s eastern edge, provides structural rigor; and Combe, the southernmost lieu-dit in the appellation, comprises sandy granite soils which give rounder, more voluptuous fruit and overtly floral aromas. Aged entirely in well-used 600-liter demi-muids, “Terre Brulée” is a Cornas of immense concentration, deep, meaty aromatics, intense effusive spiciness, and a bristling tension that beckons for a bit of patience but is thrilling in its vibrancy.
Lionnet Saint-Joseph “Terre Neuve”: Ludovic and Corinne own just shy of a hectare of Saint-Joseph, in the village of Châteaubourg—the southernmost village in the appellation, just north of Cornas. Half of their holding is a younger parcel, and the other half was planted in the 1950s, both on clay-limestone soils with a high occurrence of large limestone galets. As with their Cornas, they vinify the Saint-Joseph without de-stemming, and age it for 18 months in used 600-liter demi-muids before bottling without fining or filtration. This is Saint-Joseph with a Cornas sensibility: embracing of its spiciness, firmly structured, and rivetingly mineral-driven.
2016 Cornas “Pur Granit”: 2016 marks the debut vintage of Ludovic and Corinne’s “Pur Granit”—from a southeast-facing one-hectare parcel of selection massale Syrah, planted between 2008 and 2011, in the vineyard of Saint-Pierre at around 380 meters altitude. The combination of high altitude and pure granite soil (hence the name) yields a taut, racy Cornas of remarkable focus and mineral purity. This 2016, while marginally less strapping and profound than the “Terre Brulée” below, offers penetrating spicy aromatics and intense stoniness on the palate, with a sense of real concentration that is remarkable given the vines’ youth. Somewhat in the vein of Gilles’ “Nouvelle R,” this energetic and vivacious wine offers a slightly more easygoing counterpart to the flagship wine below.
Download Lionnet tech sheet
Domaine NameDOMAINE LIONNET
Family/Owners NameCorinne IZERABLE- LIONNET Ludovic IZERABLE
How many years has the family owned the domaine?Since 1575
How many hectares of vines are leased?0
How many hectares of vines are owned?Cornas : 2ha70, Saint Joseph : 0ha 70
Are your vineyards or wines Organic or Biodynamic Certified? If yes, in the EU? In the US? If no, are you in the process of becoming certified? When?Certified Organic by Ecocert. We didn’t ask our certification for US.Biodynamic production for the vintage 2017
Describe your vineyard management practices (e.g. low-intervention, organic, biodynamic, standard, etc.). PLEASE ALSO ADDRESS THE FOLLOWING IN YOUR REPLY:Vines work by hand (pruning, de-budding, training vines on wires, clipping, leaf-thinning
Do you do field work and harvest manually? By machine? By horse? Do you practice green harvest? Leaf thinning?Soil works by crawler tractor or by horse.
How do you fertilize?We use compost in Autumn. For vines leaves we use horsetail and nettle manure from April to June. Green harvest and leaf-thinning when it is necessary
Do you typically sell or buy any grapes? Please specify.No
Do you sell off any of your wine en vrac?No
WINE 1
GENERAL INFORMATION
AppellationCORNAS
Cepage/Uvaggiosyrah
%ABVFrom 12,5 to 14,5
# of bottles producedFrom 8000 to 11000
Grams of Residual Sugar0
VINEYARD AND GROWING INFORMATION
Vineyard/lieu dit name(s) and locationsCombes 80 years, Mazards 45 years, Chaillot 45 years, pied la vigne 60 and 70 years, chataignier 4 to 7 years
Exposures and slope of vineyardsCombes plains Lower part of the hillside. Mazards Eas Lower part of the hillside. Chaillot North-east Slope 25% on terraces. pied la vigne South Slope 20% on terraces. Chataignie South-eas Slope 30% on terraces
Soil Types(s)Combes Granite
Mazards Granite
Chaillot thin granite
pied la vigne clay-limestone
chataignier Granite, poor soil
Average Vine Density (vines/HA)8000 vines/ha
Approximate harvest date(s)Mid-september
PLEASE SHARE ANY NOTES ABOUT HARVEST/GROWING SEASON FOR THIS WINE IN THIS VINTAGE2016 : May and June : cool and rainy
HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO PREVIOUS VINTAGES?Late Jully : warmer. August : very hot and dry. Harvest about September 20th. 2015 : May and June : cool and rainy. July and early August : very hot and very dry. Rainstorm the August 15th so moderate temperature. Hot September. Harvest from 10 to 15 of September. Then chain of rains. 2014 : Early and hot spring. July cool and humid. August hot. Dry September, moderate temperature. Harvest late September
WINEMAKING/CELLAR INFORMATION
% whole cluster, % destemmed100% Whole cluster
Fermentation: vessel type and sizeConcrete tank for Mazards, Combes, Chaillots and Pieds la vigne. Stainless steel tank for Chataignier
Duration of cuvaison20 days and more
Duration of contact with leesWith cap
Select or indigenous yeast?Indigenous yeasts
Please share notes about winemaking process for this wine. Grape berries are split in fields into harvest bins (80kg) then emptied in tanks.
PLEASE ADDRESS THE FOLLOWING, IF APPLICABLE:Pumping-over for 2 to 3 days, then punching-down by feet for all the fermentation and maceration
pump-overs, punch-downs, racking, movement/transfer of wine done by gravity or pumping?), battonnage, malolactic fermentation allowed, chaptalizationRunning of the free run wine then pressing with wooden press. Blending of free run wine with press wine. Malolactic fermentation in tank. Ageing in barrels
Elevage: vessel type(s) and size(s)Ageing 50% Big barrels (from 4 wines and more) and 50% Barriques (from 3 wines and more)
Duration of elevage18 months
Duration of bottle ageing before release to US market15 months
Do you practice fining and filtration? No fining. No filtration
Do you add sulfur? If so when and how much? How much sulfur remains in the wine at release?Sulphiting: -After malolactic fermentation. During the ageing after analysis. Before bottling. Total SO2: 65mg. Free SO2: 20mg
PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS FINISHED WINE FROM THIS VINTAGE. HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO PREVIOUS VINTAGES?2014 The usual vintage for Cornas. Nice weather and slow ripening. Harvest late September, very ripe grapes without excess of heat. Very well-balanced wine, with complexity. Similar to 2007. Yield : 33 hl/ha
WINE 2
GENERAL INFORMATION
AppellationSaint Joseph
Cepage/Uvaggiosyrah
%ABVFrom 12,5% to 14,5% by vol
# of bottles produced600 in 2013, 1200 in 2014, 1800 in 2015
Grams of Residual Sugar0
VINEYARD AND GROWING INFORMATION
Vineyard/lieu dit name(s) and locationsChateaubourg. Lieux dits Giraud/ les côtes
Exposures and slope of vineyards6 terraces with East exposure
Soil Types(s)Clay, silt limestone
Average vine age (per vineyard)Planting from 2008 to 2012
Average Vine Density (vines/HA)8000 vines/ha
Approximate harvest date(s)Mid-september
PLEASE SHARE ANY NOTES ABOUT HARVEST/GROWING SEASON FOR THIS WINE IN THIS VINTAGE2016 : May and June : cool and rainy
HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO PREVIOUS VINTAGES?Late Jully : warmer. August : very hot and dry. Harvest about September 20th. 2015 : May and June : cool and rainy. July and early August : very hot and very dry. Rainstorm the August 15th so moderate temperature. Hot September. Harvest from 10 to 15 of September. Then chain of rains. 2014 : Early and hot spring. July cool and humid. August hot. Dry September, moderate temperature. Harvest late September
WINEMAKING/CELLAR INFORMATION
% whole cluster, % destemmed100% whole cluster
Fermentation: vessel type and size Concrete tank
Duration of cuvaison20 days and more
Duration of contact with leesWith cap
Select or indigenous yeast?Indigenous yeasts
PLEASE ADDRESS THE FOLLOWING, IF APPLICABLE:Grape berries are split in fields into harvest bins (80kg) then emptied in tanks.
pump-overs, punch-downs, racking, movement/transfer of wine done by gravity or pumping?), battonnage, malolactic fermentation allowed, chaptalizationPumping-over for 2 to 3 days, then punching-down by feet for all the fermentation and maceration. Running of the free run wine then pressing with wooden press. Blending of free run wine with press wine. Malolactic fermentation in tank. Ageing in barrels
Elevage: vessel type(s) and size(s)Ageing 50% Big barrels (from 4 wines and more) and 50% Barriques (from 3 wines and more)
Duration of elevage12 months
Duration of bottle ageing before release to US market6 months
Do you practice fining and filtration? If yes, please describeNo fining, No filtration
Do you add sulfur? If so when and how much? How much sulfur remains in the wine at release?Sulphiting: -After malolactic fermentation. During the ageing (after analysis). Before bottling. Total SO2: 65mg. Free SO2: 20mg
PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS FINISHED WINE FROM THIS VINTAGE. HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO PREVIOUS VINTAGES?2nd vintage. Powerful Saint-Joseph, dark colour. Yields : 40Hl/ha
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