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Domaine Balthazar
Domaine Balthazar
8, rue des Violettes
07130 Cornas

Owner / wine maker: Franck Balthazar

Background

Some people inherit wardrobes full of naphthalene smelling clothes and a hefty bill from the retirement home, others (namely Franck Balthazar) are left a sizeable chunk of some of the oldest and most well-situated vines in France. It seems there is simply no justice in the world.

Franck had been working full-time in a factory and helping out at the domaine in the evenings and at weekends. In 2002, he left his job and took over the running of the estate from his father, René. It has been in his family since 1931, when his grandfather first bought vines in the village, mainly in the perfectly placed “Chaillot” sector of the coteau. He recently increased his holding there when he had the good fortune to inherit a part of Noël Verset’s vines. Once, when quizzed about the age of his vines, Noël replied rather vaguely that they were planted before the war. His reply to the obvious question, “Which war?”, provoked a rather brusque “Well the first, of course!”. Of course. Lucky Franck!

There is nothing extraordinary in Franck’s approach. He believes strongly that wine is a part of his cultural heritage and he defends its place within society, a view which is sadly not shared by the French government. In the vines, his treatments remain as natural as possible: he uses weed-killers on the very steepest slopes (some are around 30%), otherwise he works the soil mechanically and uses only Bordeaux mixture to treat his vines. Green harvesting at the beginning of the summer keeps his yields down to a respectable 35 hl / ha.

His winemaking style is, in true family tradition, one of minimum intervention, believing that the less one does to a wine, the less one masks the terroir. To this end you will not find any new wood in his cellar. His wines tend towards the more opulent style of Cornas, being silky and ripe and bursting with fruit.

(For further information on the village of Cornas, see Thierry Allemand’s entry).

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