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‘Remarkable’ Cornas winemaker Alain Voge dies

Tributes have been paid to Alain Voge, a pioneering winemaker in the Cornas and St-Péray appellations of the Northern Rhône, who has died.

Alain Voge died this week aged 81, with his namesake winery posting a photo tribute on social media.

Alain Voge will be remembered as one of the leading lights of his generation in the Syrah heartland of Cornas in the Northern Rhône.

He was part of a small group that helped to build the international reputation of the wines made on this area’s steep-sloping vineyards, but he is also revered for his work to revitalise the neighbouring St-Péray appellation.

‘What Alain Voge achieved during his life as a winemaker in Cornas was truly remarkable,’ said Decanter contributing editor and Rhône expert Matt Walls.

‘He will rightly be remembered for the exceptional quality of his Cornas, but let’s not forget his St-Péray [wines].

‘To be a leading producer of one appellation is impressive, but to be at the forefront of two is rare indeed. Through dogged hard work and great care in the vineyard he built up his family estate to be one of the strongest in the Northern Rhône.’

It was Voge’s great grandfather, Henri Voge, who brought the family to the area in the early 20th century. Viticulture was just one of several farming activities pursued at the property for the next several decades.

Alain Voge, born in 1939, started working at the estate in 1961 and took the reins alongside his mother somewhat prematurely in 1965, following the death of his father, Louis.

Voge worked closely with a merchant to develop sales of bottled wines, and also became a leading figure in protecting vineyards in the area from the creep of urbanisation.

The 1970s saw the creation of ‘Les Vieilles Vignes’, following replanting work in the family vineyards in the heart of Cornas. Matt Walls recently gave the 2017 vintage 96 points, describing it as ‘captivating and true to its terroir’.

In the 1980s, Voge continued his work to regenerate Cornas vineyard sites and also pioneered barrel fermentation of still white wines in St-Péray.

Towards the end of the decade, he and the team created ‘Les Vieilles Fontaines’ cuvée from a specific site of old Syrah vines in Cornas. It has risen to critical acclaim and is only made in top vintages, produced from vines that are today 80 years old.

In 2004, Albéric Mazoyer joined Voge as a partner and manager of the estate, having previously advised on winemaking at another prestigious Rhône producer, Michel Chapoutier. Organic and biodynamic certification has followed.

Mazoyer departed in October 2018, handing over his role to Lionel Fraisse, who had worked with him since 2012.

Decanter contributor Yohan Castaing described Voge as one of the greats in a tribute on his blog, anthocyanesVoge was ‘proud of the new generation’ for continuing his work, he said.

Alain Voge’s contribution to this part of the northern Rhône sits alongside that of other pioneering winemakers in the area, such as Pierre-Auguste Clape, who died in 2018 aged 93 and who had begun making estate-bottled wines back in the 1950s.

See also:

St-Péray is back: These are the wines to watch (2019)

Domaine Clape wines tasted: From 1987 to 2017

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