Another wonderfully family-based business that we at Bijou simply LOVE is the vineyard and winemaking outfit of Jean-Luc Colombo in Cornas.
We love these guys not only for all the usual reasons - they’re a family outfit, with Jean-Luc and Anne working closely with their daughter Laure, and they’re superbly good at what they do – but also because they’re very close to home. Their Rhone Valley vineyards are a mere 30 minute drive from our Chateau du Bijou in Provence and they reflect everything that we love about this relatively unknown diamond in the French rough.
Jean-Luc and Ann Colombo began their careers as Pharmacists with a side-line business in grape and soil analysis for local winemakers. Over time they moved more and more towards the wine side of their business and, eventually, took the plunge and invested in vineyards of their own. Over the last 30 years they have worked tirelessly to create some truly special wines – both red and white – in a way that maintains much of the natural beauty of the land from whence it comes.
The Colombo family have a firm belief in a holistic approach to winemaking. Unlike many winemaking families, their family home actually sits among their vineyards and they live there full-time. It is their belief that, by living among the vines, they become more attuned to what’s going on in their vineyards – the delicate balances of nature that give a good wine its character and depth. Furthermore they keep as close as possible to traditional methods of farming – they don’t use pesticides and they ensure that their vineyards are home to a broad selection of wildlife, the logic being that the natural balance needed for growing good grapes and the natural balance needed for providing a habitat for rabbits, chickens, ducks and even goats are one and the same. If your farm supports one, it’s more likely to support the other successfully.
The Colombo family make a selection of Rhone Valley wines in both of the very different northern and southern regions. Their vineyards in the northern Rhone, sitting on granite provide the perfect terroir for Syrah, allowing them to produce bold and delicious fruit-driven wines often described as ‘inky-black’. The Colombo family’s total control over growing, pressing, ageing and bottling means they ensure the fruit is allowed to speak for itself and maintains the perfect balance of fresh, fruit flavours, minerality, and tannins. Jean-Luc and family passionately believe the personality of the Syrah grape needs no interference but listening to Jean-Luc talk with so much enthusiasm about labouring in the midday sun on the steep slopes of his Cornas hillsides, the virtue of hand-picking the grapes and the nobility of Syrah, we think there’s something of Jean-Luc’s personality in his wines too; an integrity all too rare.
The Colombo family produce an impressive and elegant range of northern Rhone wines and none more so than their ‘Origine’ portfolio that covers nearly all of the major northern Rhone appellations and ‘Crus’ including Crozes Hermitage, Cornas, Cotes du Rhone Villages, and St. Joseph, while their ‘La Collection’ range goes even further. This reserve collection are the personal favourites of the Colombo family themselves, each with its own story and lovingly created, often from single vineyard estates. The majestic ‘Terres Brulee’ Cornas is rapidly becoming the most well-known of the Colombo portfolio but is quickly being caught up by the remarkable Cote Rotie ‘La Divine’, the ‘Le Ruchet’ Cornas, and the 'Les Fees Brunes' Crozes Hermitage. Each of these kingly northern Rhone appellations represented is done so in a fantastic demonstration of what the marriage of old-fashioned savoir faire and careful nurturing and production of a legendary grape can produce.
Jean-Luc and family have no less a connection to their southern Rhone estates. Born in Marseille and growing up surrounded by the beautiful Provence vineyards of the Vins de Pays d’Oc, Jean-Luc strives for no lesser an expression of the beauty of the grapes and the landscape in his southern Rhone wines. The southern Rhone range is dominated by the grape varieties for which the region is so well-known; whites from Viognier and Picpoul, then Syrah, Cinsault and Mouverdre blending together into sublime Rosé wines, and reds from Syrah, grown in a less forgiving environment than it’s northern Rhone brethren, meaning it imparts all of the intensity of the Mediterranean heat in a concentrated explosion of fruit on the palate.
In short, the Colombo family have achieved in a little over thirty years what many can only dream of and they now represent not just the best of what is going on in south-eastern France and the northern and southern Rhone Valleys but in France and in the world of wine around the globe. If wine is a passion and only the best will do on your big day, Jean-Luc Colombo is a name you cannot afford to overlook; we predict this diamond in the rough is soon become recognised as one of the wine worlds most highly-prized jewels.