While 2017 was an infamously 'short' vintage throughout France, Crozes-Hermitage miraculously managed to dodge the perils of frost, hail and drought and deliver a relatively bountiful harvest of perfectly ripened grapes. An upbeat Alain Graillot likened the recent 2015-2017 vintage run to the superb trio of 1989, 1990 and 1991. Without question this means we now have a buyers' market so don't say we didn't keep you informed!
The Graillot family have been instrumental in helping popularise white Crozes-Hermitage with their rigorous vineyard and cellar management yielding readily accessible, fruit-accentuated wines. Theirs is made from 80% Marsanne and 20% Roussanne that are vinified in vat and barrel prior to blending, filtration and a spring bottling under screw-cap. It has inviting peach and apricot scents and persistent orchard fruit palate with an elegant dry finish.
The principal wine, in volume terms, is the acclaimed red Crozes-Hermitage 'Alain Graillot'. Made from whole bunches of pure Syrah grown on the 'Les Chassis' plateau it is usually approachable from release, exhibiting a wealth of briary black fruit scents and flavours offset by fine-grained tannins and a fresh acidity. Unsurprisingly, it is a wine that is extremely popular with restaurateurs with about half the production never leaving France.
Since 2004, Alain's oldest son Maxime has had a side venture called 'Domaine des Lises' producing his own Crozes-Hermitage and some négociant bottlings, under his 'Equis' label. A youthful red called 'Equinoxe' has a bouquet of black berries and cherries and a juicy cassis palate with incredibly silky tannins. It is bottled under screw-cap, has a contemporary cartoon label and is very reasonably priced. The senior 'Domaine de Lises' Crozes-Hermitage has much the same 'fruit forward' appeal but a little more weight, structure and longevity and a traditional cork closure.
Not to be overlooked is Yves Chéron's unimpeachable 'Pascal Frères' bottling of Crozes-Hermitage which has a bouquet of hedgerow berries and violets and a supple palate of ripe autumnal fruit supported by fine-grained tannins.