Like the Sleeping Beauty of the Northern Rhône, the appellation Cornas is at last awaking from a long slumber. Though these were wines once celebrated by Charlemagne, they have been regarded as the red-headed stepchild of the Northern Rhône for the last hundred years. Hard, tannic wines from the large négociants have given the appellation a bad reputation, and the rough, crumbling terraces lining the banks on this patch of the river have crippled even the most robust vignerons. In the early twentieth century, many vineyards here had already fallen into disrepair.
By the 1980s, a slow insurgency of passionate winemakers started to resuscitate the vineyards, with Thierry Allemand deep in the fray. Thierry was working at Domaine Robert Michel at the time. Young and eager, he was learning the trade secrets of terrace farming, pruning, grafting techniques, and noninterventionist winemaking. Little by little, he began acquiring vineyard parcels that had long since been abandoned, rescuing some, buying others, and renting the rest. Insufferable work as it was, he dove into the project courageously: he cleared over-taken vineyards of weeds and scrub brush, reinforced terraces, rebuilt walls, and replanted. All by hand.
Though it took him fifteen years before he could afford to fully dedicate himself to his own domaine (he earned his living as an electrician!), the quiet, monastic Thierry Allemand had already become a legend.