Marcel Juge is one of the great icons of the Northern Rhône, and the appellation of Cornas specifically, in the era (and spirit) of some of the legendary producers like Marius Gantaz-Dervieux, Noel Verset, Raymond Trollat and Auguste Clape.
Juge officially retired in the late `90s. The majority of his vineyards he passed to his daughter, Olga. She and her father continue to make some wine rom some of their best, 80-year old, hillside parcels in Cornas, selling the rest of the grapes off to other producers. Starting in 2005, she decided she didn’t want to spend the time and effort to commercialize her wines, so Marcel invoked a provision in French law that allowed him to continue to make a tiny bit of wine - post-retirement - as a sort of “bricolage” (or hobby). So now, each year, he makes about 150 cases of his super-traditional Cornas for personal consumption (from the lieu-dits of "Champelrose" and "Cayret") as well as some for his close friends.
Stepping into the Juge cellars is like stepping into a time-warp of Rhône history. The tiny, dark, cramped cellars are located under his house in the center of the village. Here the wine is made in the same way it was 30 and 40 years ago. Yields are kept extremely low, and grapes are all harvested by hand from steep hillside vineyards. Like many of the great old-time producers, there is no de-stemming, and wine is macerated and fermented using the traditional “submerged cap”, which allows for a more gentle extraction from the otherwise fiercely tannic Syrah grapes. The wine is aged for a minimum of 18-24 months in crusty old demi-muids before being bottled without filtration.
Marcel himself is a bit of a “provocateur” and likes to rail on the current state of affairs of the wine business. “Les Americans ne comprennent pas mes vins!” (“the Americans don’t understand my wines”), he proclaims. “They all want big and fruity wines, and my wines are more about elegance”. Now elegance is not the first word one would normally use for the wines of Cornas, yet Juge has always found a way to coax elegance out of the granite soils of his beloved Cornas. As Robert Parker said in his original book on the Rhone, “His wines are the most elegant and Burgundy-like made in Cornas”. This is a definite plus for those looking to put the wines on lists rights away (though they have a great track record for aging as well).
The wines are stunning examples of traditional Northern Rhône wines. There is a gentle rusticity that is signature Juge, and lots of earthy, peppery, meaty, mineral notes buried in a core of deep black fruits. Perfect reds to curl up by the fire with…