Rhone Master Class with Jean-Luc “Not Stupid” Colombo

Granted, it was a wee bit difficult for some to get past winemaker Jean-Luc Colombo’s heavily accented-English.  The one word I did pick up, which peppered most of his one-hour lecture, was “stupid.”  When I laughed out loud at one of his stories, detailing a wine practice he thought was stupid, I got a smile back from the master, as I may have been the only one that got his jest.

Jean-Luc Colombowww.LearnAboutWine.com founder Ian Blackburn opened the session by explaining that we would taste nine wines that are distributed by Southern Wine and Spirits.  Blackburn said that Colombo was originally a pharmacist – which alters how he thinks about organics and biodynamics; i.e. bees, flowers and animals are integrated into his vineyard practices in the small appellation region of Cornas.

Colombo began by thanking Blackburn and his own team.  Then he explained a little of his own history: his wife was also a pharmacist but Colombo wanted to go to the Rhone Valley and learn about Cornas.  He made his first wine, a single vineyard 100% Syrah.  Cornas is a “sleepy town”, then and now, but now it’s known for its wines.

“Food and wine is not a business, it’s a lifestyle,” Colombo said.  “It’s a shame to drink only water so it’s our job to educate people on food and wine.”

Colombo mentioned that they don’t use any pesticides in their vineyards. “People today talk too much about biodynamic or organic – it’s stupid – as it’s normal not to use pesticide.  If you are a cancer patient in the hospital you never ask if your medicine is organic or not!”

Colombo continued, “If you don’t have a good climate you don’t make wine” as irrigation shouldn’t be needed.  “Paying for water is completely stupid.  For 2000 years (of winemaking) there was no irrigation…the more you talk about organic the more you are killing your vineyard.  Then there will be no car wash (businesses) as there will be no water.  Maybe one day we will say stop irrigation or stop organic. The great wines are made without irrigation…”

And, as we were about to begin the tasting Colombo reminded, or as I like to think, admonished us by saying, “Wine is for the table (with food) not a cocktail.  A Cabernet or Merlot (or any wine) at 7 pm without food is not normal” to which I thoroughly agreed!

Now onto the wines of Jean-Luc Colombo! 

In this tasting – all wines were about 13% alcohol

(Tasting Notes in parenthesis were provided by Colombo)Rhones with Jean-Luc Colombo

‘La Redonne’ Cotes du Rhone Blanc 2011 (70% Viognier, 30% Roussanne)

Sweet pineapple, freshly mown grass, wet gravel, lemon, sweet jasmine floral notes on the nose…full mouth viscosity, lemon-lime soda, citrus fruits – grapefruit, medium acid.  (Tasting notes included stainless steel fermentation which may account for the gravel notes.)


‘Amour de Dieu’ Condrieu 2100 (100% Viognier)

On the nose I was greeted by honey, sweet pink lemonade, pineapple, honeydew melon, dried apricots…on the mouth lemonade with honey, nice mouthfeel, some acidity and lingering finish.  (Tasting notes mention the same apricot.)


‘La Belle de Mai’ Saint-Peray 2011 (80% Roussanne, 20% Marsanne)

Cinnamon, apricot, anise…followed by a dry palate, less fruit forward than the first two, green apple, spice, more balanced and very interesting.  (Tasting notes mention limestone, granite…and intense floral aromas.)


‘Les Forots’ Cotes du Rhone 2010 (100% Syrah)

Plums, blackberry, black cherry, green peppercorns, stewing mushrooms, seared steak…followed by a taste of dried plums, stems, tannins and pepper. (Tasting notes also mention blackberry.)


‘Les Bartavelles’ Chateauneuf du Pape 2011 (45% Syrah, 35% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre)

Ripe black cherries, black currant, dark chocolate on the nose…on the mouth bright fruit, pepper, good spice balanced fruit and tannins, palate-drying.  (Tasting notes called it exotic spice.)


‘La Divine’ Cote Rotie 2010 (95% Syrah, 5% Viognier)

Blackberry jam, very concentrated red and blue fruits, dusty, black pepper…followed by a less fruity taste, chewy, dark fruit, more smoke and tannins, very palatable.


‘Terres Brulees’ Cornas 2010 (100% Syrah)

Aromas of a kitchen filled with cooking vegetables, stew, steaks grilling, maybe someone brought some chocolate and a bouquet of velvety dark roses…and tastes of ripened blue fruits, black pepper, soil, and unsweetened dark chocolate.


‘Le Ruchets’ Cornas 2010 (100% Syrah)

Dark fruit, mint, cigar, chocolate, figs…smells good.   On the palate smoky fruit, cigar and bark.


“La Louvee” Cornas 2010 (100% Syrah) Translates to “She Wolf”

Sweet hot chocolate, cinnamon, spice rack, roasted meat, blue and black fruits…on the mouth: dried plums, black pepper and green pepper, that same roasted meat.