In 20 years, Domaine du Tunnel has established itself as one of the Rhône Valley’s safe bets. Vintage after vintage, Stéphane Robert and his wife Sandrine draw the best from their Rhône terroirs. A closer look at this unmissable domain.
It was in 1966 that Stéphane Robert created Domaine du Tunnel with his wife Sandrine. The name of the domain comes from an old railway tunnel located underneath some of the plots. Originally from the Jura, Stéphane Robert got started in the Rhône. Alongside Bernard Gripa, one of the biggest names in Saint-Joseph and Saint-Péray, he didn’t only learn his craft as a winemaker, but also the specificities of Syrah, Marsanne and Roussanne. These are the grape varieties that make the northern Rhône what it is.
Stéphane Robert began to work on his first parcels in 1994, two years before the official creation of his domain. His land includes 2.5 hectares in Saint-Péray, 4 hectares in Cornas, and 2.5 hectares in Saint-Joseph. In Saint-Péray, he crafts cuvées of 100% Marsanne, 100% Roussanne and a prestige blend cuvée. These singular cuvées shine at the heart of a renewed appellation.
In Saint-Joseph, the plots are located in the municipalities of Mauves and Glun (in the south of the appellation). In times gone by, Saint-Joseph wines were known as ‘Mauves Wines’, placing at the centre this town that incarnates the historical heart of the appellation, with its tendency to grow too far towards the North, integrating with lower-quality parcels. Finally, from the sunny vineyards of Cornas, the wines created are charmingly balanced and elegant.
Work in the vineyard is carried out by hand and sometimes with horses when the vines are more accessible. Otherwise, winches are used. Harvesting is always by hand and Stéphane vinifies his grapes with as little intervention as possible. A long élevage in 4th and 5th wine casks confers finesse and supple tannins, preserving the purity of the wine’s fruit and the character of its terroirs.
With a large proportion of old vines and rigorous work to obtain extremely masterful yields, the style of Domaine Tunnel’s wines is at once surprisingly concentrated and pleasantly silky. A discovery for those of you who aren’t yet acquainted with the domain to put first on your list!
This Saint-Joseph is a single-varietal Syrah planted on several parcels of granite soils. Grown and harvested by hand, the berries are 90% destemmed and stored in vats for 15 days. The wine is then matured in 5-wine casks. The nose develops aromas of small, red fruits and gentle spices. This wine, elegant and full-bodied, reveals beautiful tannins that is best served with meat dishes like lamb.
The Syrah that makes up this cuvée was grown exclusively by hand. 50% destemmed, it was put in vats for 15 days before undergoing an élevage of 14 months in 3- and 4-wine barrels. The domain therefore crafts a Cornas that is flavourful and lively with fine tannins, enrobed by coarse notes of dark fruit, tapenade and spices. It is advised that you open this cellaring wine an hour before serving with meat-based dishes.
The domain’s Vin Noir is made of a selection of three vines cultivated on the lieux-dits of Champelrose, Eygats and La Combe. The Syrah grapes are cultivated by hand and put in vats for two weeks. Quite discrete in its aroma at first, this wine develops the finesse of dark fruit and pepper notes. It is denser and more tannic than the domain’s classic Cornas and has good cellaring potential.
What do the guides say?
RVF Guide of France’s Best Wines 2017
Stéphane Robert runs his domain with verve and develops, in his new cellar among the heights of Saint-Péray, modern and precise wines, establishing themselves as references at the heart of the Saint-Péray and Cornas appellations. These cuvées are a renewal of the sometimes rustic style found in these little appellations. Stéphane brings a touch of refinement to his opaque Syrahs through the maturity of the grapes, the extraction and the élevage. These wines age very well.
In terms of the wines themselves, the 2014 whites are delicious, notably the Saint-Péray Vieille Marsanne, refined and crystalline. The palate is full-bodied and is lifted by a lovely acidity. The expression of fruit in the Saint-Péray Roussanne has a more candied edge to it. With its notes of apricot and yellow fruits, the palate is chewy and power, though the vintage’s tension brings freshness. Marsanne is certainly one of the nicest white wines of the northern Rhône Valley from 2014. This wine is deep, sound and a pleasant bitterness from the grapes makes it stand out. In terms of the reds, the Saint-Joseph is quite structured with a pleasant overall character. The 2014 Cornas is peppery, spicy, and has a hint of violet. The palate is wonderfully chewy. With the Vin Noir, we go to the next level: it is meatier, with a woody character for the moment, but we’re not concerned. Thhis wine has the constitution to withstand an élevage of this kind.
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Curious to find out more? Here is our selection of Rhône Valley wines