The name in the Rhône that everybody has heard of, and a particularly pretty place to visit with much to offer the wine tourist on both sides of the river. The village of Tain-l’Hermitage is a pretty picture in the summer. Sitting at the foot of the hill of Hermitage, with one side facing the mighty Rhône River, and behind the hill heading north you have some 2000 hectares of vines planted.
There has been a remarkable turnaround in the fortunes of Crozes Hermitage these past 20 odd years as land has been, up until recently, relatively cheap in comparison to the Northern Côte-Rôtie sites with just as much a taste of the north for a fraction of the cost.
These days, the region is awash with new producers who always seem to have a link to the past. There is distinct difference in the wines from Crozes as opposed to say St Joseph and Hermitage, with much more alluvial soils and less granite, tending to lend more fruit forward wines and immediate generosity. We have two contrasting producers both making really great value, stylish wines.
Domaine Gaylord MachonYou make an immediate judgement when you taste wine, and you can tell a lot about people on first appearances. The time I met Gaylord and Aurelie Machon was no exception. We have always enjoyed the wines, they are joyful and sing with freshness and serious intent. We saw them both at a trade show in the Rhone a few years ago and they were almost humbled by the fact that we had come to see them at their stand; we were duly invited to another tasting that evening in the wilds of the country. I must admit to thinking there must have been some mistake as the taxi trundled along dark dusty road that night for what appeared to be mile after mile before depositing us on what looked like a disused petrol station, bright lights & steamed up windows. However, inside told a different story. A party of revellers were inside, proving to be a real who’s who of Crozes Hermitage. They were so impressed and surprised that we had made the effort to come and see them, they set about introducing us to all their friends, with no fear that their friends’ wines would be better or worry that they might influence their importer.These are lovely people making lovely wines with a perpetual smile on their faces. Gaylord and Aurelie have 8.5 hecatres of organic land in the southern part of Crozes. They have real feeling for the wines, made with low intervention but with care and attention. The reds are very pure, with the Cuvee Ghany coming across as exuberant in its youth, whilst the more serious Cuvee Lhony, has more dark fruits, black olive tapenade and integrated oak. Both the red wines are named after their sons, whilst a white ‘La Fille don’t jai reve’, the daughter of whom I dream, is a blend of mainly Roussanne and a bit of Marsanne.
2019 CROZES HERMITAGE BLANC La Fille Dont J'ai Rêvé Domaine Gaylord Machon
Carrying on with the theme of naming wines after children, albeit the one they don't have, the daughter of whom I dreamed 'La Fille dont j'ai reve'. A Roussanne/Marsanne blend from 0.4 hectare, aCarrying on with the theme of naming wines after children, albeit the one they don't have, the daughter of whom I dreamed 'La Fille dont j'ai reve'. A Roussanne/Marsanne blend from 0.4 hectare, a combination of stainless steel and 228lt French barrel, a tiny production of 2700 bts of 225 cases. Light lemon hue, with floral notes of white blossom, acacia, light apricot and pear. I like the freshness and vibrancy here, it has notes of oak which it will fill into, this is a lovely demonstration of just how good white Rhone can be, inviting and so drinkable.L&S (Mar 2021)
2018 CROZES HERMITAGE Cuvée Ghany Domaine Gaylord Machon
Another knock out wine from Machon, this had so much perfume and intensity on the nose, black raspberry, black pepper, dried roses, ginger and dark chocolate. In the mouth the tannins are beautifullyAnother knock out wine from Machon, this had so much perfume and intensity on the nose, black raspberry, black pepper, dried roses, ginger and dark chocolate. In the mouth the tannins are beautifully pliable and overlaid with sleek black fruits, spice, deliciously wild savoury touches and a bright balancing acidity. Drinking range: 2021 - 2031L&S (Mar 2021)
2017 CROZES HERMITAGE Cuvée Lhony Domaine Gaylord Machon
The richer and more intense of the two cuvees named after his son's Lhony being the younger. Super concentrated fruit, black fruits, redcurrant, violets and hint of pitch/aniseed too. Sweet violetsThe richer and more intense of the two cuvees named after his son's Lhony being the younger. Super concentrated fruit, black fruits, redcurrant, violets and hint of pitch/aniseed too. Sweet violets flow through the mid palate, vibrant juicy acidity all help focus the wine, it wears the spice from the oak very well and has great tapenade black olive twist too. Gaylord is making great wine and each vintage the wines seem to get incrementally better, great news for all, especially lovers of great Crozes Hermitage.L&S (Mar 2021)
Domaine Gilles RobinGilles Robin took over the running of this vineyard in 1996, with the freedom to produce his own wines. With a history of winegrowing spanning four generations, Gilles' aim was to realise the potential of the 35 year old vines. He immediately used only natural fertilizers and reduced yields to just 40 hectolitres per hectare (8/10 bunches per vine) to give a richer concentration of fruit and quality. A new winery was built into the ground to allow the wines to be moved delicately by gravity, rather than being pumped. Gilles' vineyard now extends to Saint Joseph (where he makes a tiny volume) and Hermitage, the core vineyard averages forty years old, and the wines gain in subtlety and balance with every vintage. Gilles says of his wines, 'there is not a unique Syrah but rather a full spectrum of characteristics and potential expressed by Syrah varieties', to which might be added 'the spectrum of flavours of Syrah on different terroirs' as well, because his vineyards encompass the range of styles the appellation can produce. The 'Rochas' vineyard has deep soils which make for big wines with rustic tannins which take time to soften. It always produces tiny grapes which need fairly strong extraction to get the best of their deep, wild black fruit and spice notes. The 'Monico' vineyard is made up of broken-up rock and little pebbles and a deep clay. The clay retains water well and this is perfect for hot summers. A higher-toned red and black fruit character, ripe blackcurrant and blackberry, with elegant rather than massive tannins. Finally the 'Terres Rouges' vineyard is made of gravels and red clay, typical of the 'Terrasse des Châssis'. The Syrah here displays finesse, elegance and aromatic complexity. The strong iron monoxide content of this plot enables a maximum phenolic maturity. Intense colour, with purple highlights, aromas of violets, black fruits, sweet spices (pepper, nutmeg) and slightly smokiness. On the palate, this Syrah has silky tannins and fine minerality. All of these styles together make for beautifully balanced wines, the different cuvées emphasising the differing characteristics of primal fruit and sophisticated and complex depth. The vineyard has been organic since 2009.
2019 CROZES HERMITAGE Cuvée Papillon Domaine Gilles Robin
A distinctly bold and fragrant expression from Gilles Robin, spice and black pepper, overlaying blackberry and blueberry fruits. The palate is filled with ripe fruit, rich tannins give weight andA distinctly bold and fragrant expression from Gilles Robin, spice and black pepper, overlaying blackberry and blueberry fruits. The palate is filled with ripe fruit, rich tannins give weight and intensity and there is a lovely fresh edge with some floral back notes. Delicious. Drinking range: 2021 - 2026L&S (Jan 2021)