Matthieu Barret is to Cornas as Jean Michel Stephan is to Cote-Rotie. These are stylish, elegant wines from biodynamically farmed Syrah vinified with minimum sulphur. The heft and animality of Cornas is not present with Barret, and his extract levels are dialed in for an elegant presentation. The 2009 vintage is a perfect display piece for Barret who produced delicate, perfumed Syrah with length and balance despite the heat.
Barret makes four bottlings of Cornas, each of which has a unique expression of both vineyard and slope. This Terrasses du Serre, for instance, is all from mid-slope parcels and vines averaging 45 years. Its blend of three lieux-dits – les Arlettes, les Reynards, and la Patronne – provides a balanced approach to Cornas that I see comparable to the Clape approach, minus stem inclusion. It drinks well in youth and with age due to the fineness of tannin Barret achieves. Fermentation is in 70% large wood vats and 30% concrete eggs for 18 months. Barret does not employ racking.
The Billes Noirs, by contrast, is all from top-slope fruit and older 55 year old vines. It offers a more powerful, deep version of Cornas that is more backwards in youth and meant for the long haul. It spends 2 years in 10 year old 500L barrels (in contrast to the 18 months of oak seen by the Terrasses).
With the most famous domaines now reaching $150+ territory per bottle, it is the lesser known newcomers such as Barret and Balthazar that should become the new value-driven collector’s darlings. I have been drinking these wines when I can find them for 5-6 years now and they keep getting better.
Barret is sadly not yet in Canada. I hope an enterprising importer sees the genius and picks these up before they become too culty and allocated.
$59 USD at Vinopolis