Emmanuelle Verset had a clear goal when finishing high school and that was to learn as much as possible in the shortest amount of time before taking over her father Alain’s prized vineyards in Cornas. After a few years studying viticulture and winemaking and working in various capacities throughout the French wine business, she returned home in 2016 to take over the family domaine at the ripe old age of 24. Hers is the 6th generation in her family of winegrowers in Cornas named Verset.
The Verset name runs deep in this neck of the woods and some of the vineyards she now farms were acquired by her father in 2015 following the retirement in 2007 of her great uncle Noël, the legendary vigneron whose career spanned much of the 20th and into the 21st century. The other vineyards she farms were inherited by her father from her grandfather Louis, Noël’s brother. Emmanuelle now farms 4 hectares total with 2.2 hectares located in the heart of Cornas. This prime real estate includes parcelles in the great vineyards of Champelrose, Reynard, Les Mazards & Les Côtes, where the average vine age is 60 years old. Some vines are over 100 years old, including plots in La Geynale (a very old portion of Reynard), Champelrose and Mazards. The century old plot of La Geynale provides the fruit for her top cuvée, Signature Verset.
Upon taking over, she immediately set about restoring the neglected stone terraces of their ancient vineyards and like many of her generation, aware that their future is in peril due to global warming, she has embraced many aspects of regenerative agriculture. This means increasing the vegetation canopy of the vines during the growing season, which helps them resist the rising heat of the summer by shading the soil, the bunches and the people who tend them so fastidiously, meaning herself, since she performs most of the vineyard tasks herself. The vineyard work is done mostly by hand, since her prized vineyard holdings are located on some of the steepest slopes (over 60%) in France, making it impossible to enter with a tractor.
Vinification in the cellars is traditional and in Cornas, that means 100% whole cluster fermentations and no new oak. However, where in the past, most vignerons followed one tried and true formula year after year, Emmanuelle adjusts cuvaison maceration, extraction, racking schedules and every other intervention with respect to the particularities of the vintage at hand. This adaptive approach produces wines that show classic, savory, herbal and structured Syrah fruit that are also elegant and more nuanced in their youth than one might expect from the appellation. They are built to age gracefully, but are far less angry in their youth than those of the past.
In 1988, still active at 100 years old, her great-grandfather Emmanuel Verset was named the oldest active winegrower in France. As the family saying goes, “Verset Cornas needs time to be ready to drink, which is why it preserves us.”
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