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The wines of Jean-Luc Colombo

La Croix des Marais, 26600 La Roche de Glun, Tain l'Hermitage, France
Tel: (33) 4 75 84 17 10 Fax: (33) 4 75 84 17 19

Pharmacist turned wine consultant turned vigneron Jean-Luc Colombo has been quite a controversial figure. If you like, he's the Michel Rolland of the Northern Rhône: when he first started consulting for a number of producers in Cornas back in 1984, he contentiously steered his clients in the direction of Robert Parker-friendly, lush, extracted wines with a fair dollop of oak. In 1986 he acquired his first vineyard holdings in Cornas, and then in 1994 he launched 'Vins de Jean-Luc Colombo', a range of wines from a variety of appellations in the Rhône and the South of France.

Columbo himself was present at the tasting, but he left most of the talking to Hugo Rose of Lay and Wheeler. I was a bit underwhelmed by these wines, but this may just be my palate preferences. They're enjoyable and show admirable concentration and are beautifully crafted, but they lack the sense of place that's often present in my favourite wines from these regions. But if your thing is big, modern, international-styled reds, then Colombo could be right up your street.

Saint Péray Belle de Mai 1999
Saint Péray is a slightly obscure appellation high up in the Northern Rhône, making sparkling and still white wines, often with an attractive character. This is the first vintage of this wine that Colombo has made, from old vine Roussanne. It shows a big, ripe, fruity nose with a floral edge. On the palate it is ripe with a slightly herby edge to the fruit. Good concentration. Very good+

Saint Joseph 'Les Laures' 1999
A single vineyard wine made with bought in grapes. A deep purple/black colour, this shows rich, inky, liquoricey fruit and dry tannins. A very modern, full-on wine. Very good

Cornas 'Les Ruchets' 1998
A concentrated, dense wine that doesn't show it's 100% new oak too obviously. There's nice, savoury, herbal fruit poking through, some liquorice notes and a slightly caramel-like edge. Savoury on the palate with a spicy edge. The only reason this doesn't get a higher rating is because its veering a little bit too far in the 'international' direction. Very good+

Colombo was also showing two wines from projects he is involved with in the South of France. There's nothing wrong with these wines, although they failed to excite me much.

Côtes du Roussillon Rouge La Chance de Saint-Luc 1998
Domaine de Saint Luc is a joint venture in the Roussillon. This is a very modern-styled wine. The rich smoky nose with ripe berry fruit leads to a full flavoured palate with firm tannins and ripe, liquoricey fruit. Possibly a bit anonymous, although a substantial wine. Very good

Colombo & Leygue de Salente 1999 L'Ame de Salente
A deep red/black colour, this is a thick-textured inky wine in a modern style. There's liquoricey fruit and drying tannins on the palate. Very good

Tasted May 2001 at the Decanter Rising Stars Fine Wine Encounter

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