Brothers with altitude


Eric Durand. Photograph: Jason Lowe

At Domaine Durand in the Ardèche, siblings Eric and Joël Durand produce estimable Syrah, Marsanne and Roussanne, but it is their outstanding Viognier, farmed at 450 metres, that has put them on the map. Here Eric shares his views on the ascendance of Cornas

Cornas has really come of age because it’s a granite circle facing the south, so there is lots of sun and we are, importantly, protected from the north wind. In many places the rock is near the surface, so there’s little or no soil.

On the slopes there are many cracks in the rock, which is where we can bring a lot of minerality to the wine. For Cornas, for the Syrah, this is very important because the gaps allow the water to get to the roots. Ultimately, this gives us wines with low acidity and very good body that are long in the mouth.

With a fine Cornas you can taste the finesse and freshness during the younger years. Once they have matured we keep always freshness and elegance in our wines – they’re not too heavy. It’s why I think Cornas is such an interesting area; but, at 150 hectares, it is still not well known.

We have eight hectares in Cornas and close to eight in St Joseph. Then there is the Vin de Pays Viognier and St Péray – which will become a greater operation I think in the next year, because a lot of new vines are being planting there, and some négociants are working to raise the image of St Péray too. Its wines have maybe been a little rustic at times, but now there is a minerality coming through St Péray that we don’t we don’t have in St Joseph. Cornas is only red, and St Péray only white, so the two wines work well together.

In St Joseph, the valley is very long, small and narrow. The wines here are not full-bodied like Cornas, because we have a lot of wind coming across from the Rhône River.

I would describe our cellar techniques as “fresh”. I dislike “modern” because it often means technology for the sake of technology. Beginning in 2013 we have kept 30 percent of end-year grapes in the tank, to bring a more “vegetable” aspect to the aging. We have very good maturation in Cornas but sometimes we need more, not acidity, but a green aromatic freshness; it’s only a sensation, a subtlety.

Our barrels are very clean. We are very careful to monitor the microbiology in the barrels as this helps to keep that freshness, keep finesse, elegance and aromatic quality.

Our Rhône 2015 en primeur offer launches on Thursday 9th March; in the meantime explore our range of wines from Domaine Durand on