The name in the Rhône that everybody has heard of, and a particularly lovely place to visit with much to offer the wine tourist on both sides of the river. The village of Tain-l'Hermitage is as pretty as a 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 Saint Joseph and Hermitage, with much more alluvial soils and less granite, tending to lend more fruit forward wines and immediate generosity. We have three contrasting producers making really great value, stylish wines.
Domaine Gilles Robin
Gilles 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 oxide 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.
2022 CROZES HERMITAGE Cuvée Papillon Domaine Gilles Robin
Sourced from 30 year old vines, packed with vibrant red fruits, cherry, redcurrant, blueberry, a slight touch of smoke too, crunchy and with a full-flavoured flow, this will always be a crowdSourced from 30 year old vines, packed with vibrant red fruits, cherry, redcurrant, blueberry, a slight touch of smoke too, crunchy and with a full-flavoured flow, this will always be a crowd pleasing wine, very pretty and generous.L&S (Oct 2023)
Domaine Rémi Niero
This is one of the original domaines of the Condrieu appellation, and perhaps without the dedication to Viognier from Niero (and the likes of Vernay), Condrieu would not have the world-class reputation it has today.
The domaine existed 45 years ago when the whole appellation was just 8 hectares of vines (it's now 200 hectares), under the name Pinchon. Rémi's father Robert married the Pinchon daughter, so now, having been Domaine Niero-Pinchon for a bit, it has been shortened to simply Niero when Rémi took over.
The smart and charming Rémi started to work alongside his father in 2004 and today oversees the domaine along with his wife Krystel. They are the 3rd generation of winemakers and continue the tradition of the estate's refined and pure wines from Viognier and Syrah working from their cellars in Condrieu. The domaine has recently fully converted to organic farming. The wines, much like the estate, are pristine and pure.
The Condrieus come from just over 4 hectares of vines, all in the commune of Condrieu itself, in the parcels Coteau de Chéry, La Roncharde, Côte Chatillon, La Caille, Vergelas and Corbéry. All of these are considered some of the of the best sites in the world for Viognier. The wines are aged in tank (60%) and barrel (40%) for a year.
The Côte-Rôties come from two sites, La Viallière and Le Coteau de Bassenon, from the southern end of the appellation, a total of nearly 2 hectares. They are aged for 16 months in barrel, with 20% new wood. Along with the exceptional Saint Joseph there is also a new Crozes Hermitage in the range.
Adrien Encontre on the 2022 vintage:
‘We’ve seen the influence of the sunshine reflected in all the wines of the 22 vintage. It’s given us profile of very aromatic whites, and juicy reds. A delicate vintage.’
2021 CROZES HERMITAGE Vie Magne Domaine Rémi Niero
Bright & fruity, I like the violets & raspberry notes on the nose, it shows really nice fruit without being overly ripe, a bit of spice, red and dark fruits mingle with a hint of smoke and a touch ofBright & fruity, I like the violets & raspberry notes on the nose, it shows really nice fruit without being overly ripe, a bit of spice, red and dark fruits mingle with a hint of smoke and a touch of iron too, this is a dependable Crozes Hermitage and really well made, like everything the Niero's well made made a great presentation too.L&S (Mar 2023)
2022 CROZES HERMITAGE Vie Magne Domaine Rémi Niero
Cask sample. Tasted blind. The nose is inviting, creamy and rounded. The palate is seductive and soft with violet, lavender and blue fruits. Well-judged fine tannins add texture and structure to theCask sample. Tasted blind. The nose is inviting, creamy and rounded. The palate is seductive and soft with violet, lavender and blue fruits. Well-judged fine tannins add texture and structure to the sweet blue-fruit core and there is appealing freshness beneath. Really drinkable already yet has structure to see it age nicely over the next few years. (AC) 13% Rating: 16.5 Alistair Cooper MW - www.JancisRobinson.com (Nov 2023)