Franck Balthazar, Cornas
Franck Balthazar took over the family domaine, dating back to 1931, in 2002. His father René had been in charge since 1950 and had overseen the move into domaine bottling in the 1970s, at the same time as his contemporaries Auguste Clape and Noël Verset. The domaine has extended from the 2 hectares of 2002 (1 ha of centenarian vines Chaillot and one 50 year old hectare in Mazzard) to around 3,5ha today – plantings on an extreme site above Sabarotte were added in 2005 & 2008 on newly formed terraces. This willingness to do things the hard way in pursuit of excellence is a hallmark of Franck’s work, in keeping with time-honoured tradition that his grandfather, Casimir, would recognise. Vineyards are organic and ploughed with a horse, ferments are whole cluster with native yeasts in concrete vats. To retain the perfume gifted by old vines and high-perched plantings all wines are aged in old 600 litre demi-muid. Sulphur is kept to an absolute minimum, indeed all winemaking techniques are as natural as possible.
Franck’s Côtes-du-Rhône is a non-estate bottling (Franck manages the organic vineyard) composed of 75% Syrah and 25% Grenache from near Vinsobres. After wild yeast ferment (destemmed) the wine is aged in fibreglass for around 10 months. The Cornas Cuvée Casimir is composed of Petite Sirah from two parcels – the old vines in Les Mazards and younger plantings in Légre. Wines age in demimuid for 18 months and are bottled without fining or filtration. The flagship bottling, the Cornas Chaillot, is the fruit of century-old Petite Sirah vines from the revered Chaillot vineyard – a parcel acquired from Noël Verset. A small portion of 50 year old vines from his Mazzard parcel is included. Wines age in demi-muid for 18 months and are bottled without fining or filtration. A tiny amount of the Cornas Sans Soufre Ajouté is produced from young vines in Legre above Sabarotte. Wines age in demi-muid for 18 months and, as the name would suggest, no sulphur is used throughout and it is bottled unfined and unfiltered.