Andrew Guard

2018 Cornas, Philippe Pacalet

As Philippe did his civil service in the Northern Rhône, he felt it was time to give back to Syrah, and his friendship with Thierry Allemand.
In this expression, the classic wildness of the wine is integrated by lavender and fresh herbs coming from the balance given by the stems. Slightly more structured than a normal Syrah thanks to the vintage with gentle oak on the palate.

Burgundian superstar Pacalet is the nephew of Marcel Lapierre of the Beaujolais. Pacelet, like his uncle, removes anything from the vinification process that obscures the pure expression of terroir. He therefore does not use industrial yeasts to aid in fermentation and he uses sulphur only at bottling.

Wine-making is intuitive and non-interventionist; fermentation is conducted in Grenier open wooden vats without sulphur, using whole bunches and natural yeasts. Maturation follows in mainly used barrels purchased from the most impeccable sources (Pacalet used to be the winemaker for Henri-Frédéric Roch, the co-director of DRC) on gross lees without any racking.

Pacalet says that in this way he makes wine a lot like his grandfather and as far as he is concerned he is a scientist and an artist together, respecting nature by trying to understand its processes and identifying how best to liberate those raw materials that great terroir confers.

Pacalet's wines are known for their purity and for their transparency to the underlying terroir. Tasting through the line-up this year was as thrilling for me as always, as the wines were so startlingly clear and focused. The last thing I wrote this year in my notes after we tasted the final wine in barrel was this: "clarity and precision"