Franck Balthazar Cotes du Rhone 2016
Winegrower: Franck Balthazar - Vigneron
Grape: 50% Grenache/50% Syrah
Delivery: June 2018
“Franck Balthazar has emerged as one of the most consistent, top-notch winemakers, and not just in Cornas, but in the entire Rhône Valley.”
- Josh Raynolds - Vinous Media
Franck Balthazar is one of the top winegrowers in the northern Rhone. From his home in Cornas he produces some of the finest and best priced traditional wines in the region. His heritage stems from some of the region’s legendary winegrowers such as his father René Balthazar and his uncle Noël Verset. Franck’s wines, made in tiny quantities, are celebrated around the world for their intensity, silky texture and authenticity. Today we offer you the opportunity to buy his Cotes-du-Rhone 2016 for $26. Simply put, this wine is luscious, beautifully pure, polished and elegant; delicious now, it will drink very well over the next 5 to 6 years.
Technically, this wine is a Cotes-du-Rhone, but it’s really much more. Most Cotes-du-Rhone comes from the southern Rhone and are blends dominated by Grenache. This wine, however, comes from the northern Rhone and includes a healthy dose of Syrah. Fifty percent Syrah, to be exact, and it’s the northern Rhone Syrah that shines through in all its glory with the Grenache playing a secondary role. Today’s wine is sourced from an organically farmed 3.5-hectare declassified Cornas vineyard just south of the outskirts of the Cornas appellation. The vineyard is close to the Vinsobres Dans la Drome off the high slopes of Cornas, not the flats below, and produces excellent Syrah at higher elevations and Grenache lower down. This wine is also the product of an excellent vintage. It was vinified with wild yeasts and bottled unfiltered with little added sulphur, and is made in the same traditional style as Franck’s other wines. This is not just a simple bistro wine; it is intense, dark with savoury, smoky notes and earth. This wine is not available elsewhere in Canada and sells for up to $28 in the US. This is an exceptional wine from an exceptional producer, and at $26 an exceptional price that you don’t want to miss. “Natural” never tasted so good!
At most vineyards the horse and plough vanished long before VCRs and dial-up modems, but not at the estate of Franck Balthazar. Famed for his old-school methods he is one of the region’s top traditional winegrowers and is sought out by collectors and enthusiasts the world over. Franck’s father René Balthazar and his uncle Noël Verset are regarded as past legendary Cornas winegrowers. Today Franck produces wine from vineyards previously owned and farmed by both these men.
The Balthazar Domaine dates back to 1931, when it was founded by Franck’s grandfather, Casmir. René took charge in 1950 and, along with his contemporaries Auguste Clapé and Franck’s uncle Noël Verset, started to bottle his own wines in the 1970’s. Before then he sold his wines in barrels to local restaurants.
Franck, who was educated as an engineer, left that profession in 2002 to satisfy his longing to grow great wines in his home of Cornas. He works his 7-hectare estate using the traditional farming and winemaking methods of his father and uncle. A horse is used to till the vineyards, an arduous task considering the steep slopes he has to work, no synthetic chemicals or fertilizers are used, and all work is by hand. His approach in the cellar is just as ‘old school.’ Whole grape clusters are fermented in concrete vats using natural yeasts, caps are punched down manually and the wine is aged in old 600 litre demi-muids (rather than 225 litre casks) for 18 months to preserve the aromas before being bottled unfined and unfiltered with minimal if any added sulphites. Every vintage is about balance, purity of expression and beauty. This is the third offer we’ve done of Franck’s wines this year, and each is a proud testament to the effectiveness of his passion and efforts: they are luxurious, expressive and elegant with an unmistakable sense of place.
This Cotes-du-Rhone 2016 has deep, round aromas of ripe blackberry, violet, mint and smoked meat. The palate is supple and bright with minty black and blueberry fruit, and hints of rose-petal. Balanced, refreshing and thirst quenching, we highly recommend this wine. Serve at 16˚ in large Bordeaux stems to capture the elegance and aromatics of this delicious wine. For and ideal pairing try these Moroccan lamb shanks in pomegranate sauce and enjoy!