These days there are basically two categories of Crozes-Hermitage. Firstly, are the pretend Hermitages: think the Graillot clan, Yann Chave La Rouve, Nicolas Jaboulet’s new(-ish) enterprise and a handful of others. These are smaller versions of the big, muscular, strapping wines of the great Hermitage hill (that is surrounded by the Crozes-Hermitage region). Then there is everything else, which is almost invariably filth.
There used to be another style of Crozes-Hermitage, admittedly with only one real exponent that springs to mind after a good dinner: the lovely Crozes. The old Paul Jaboulet-Aine’s Crozes les Jalets was the main exponent of this style. It was a perfumed, fun wine, not excessive in alcohol or tannin but a delight to drink and a great match for hearty but fun food. Sadly, that wine died when the Swiss Claret charlatans eviscerated that once great domaine and turned it into a producer of piss-boring dross with the target market of those hard of thinking but heavy of wallet. But if you look, there is more lovely Crozes out there…
An absolutely scrummy nose, bursting with ripe blackberry perfume, some rich earthiness and a grind of Syrah pepper. It is not too alcoholic, I believe the 12.5% number on the label, nor is it heavy with new oak. It smells like a delicious wine that is up for drinking.
And what could possibly be wrong with a four year old wine being up for drinking? Age-worthiness ceased to become a mark of quality wine after the eighteenth century, when the only time you could get French wine was when we were not at war with them. These days wines can show their charms at a young age and be damned-proud of doing so.
Cuvee Gaby tastes even more of a charmer, there is loads of fresh, ripe fruit that never strays into being over-ripe, nor is it lean and harsh. There is good acidity to it but that serves more to keep the wine fresh rather than make it seem thin and acrid.
There is a good dose of pepper to the palate and it has some earthy richness, but none of these factors make it too heavy. The light alcohol level keeps this Crozes-Hermitage of a medium body and quite perky.
There is enough of a structure for it to suit sympathetically the superlative Sirloin steaks we had for dinner (supplied by Beechcroft Direct, their beef is showing marvellously well at the moment), but it is not even remotely the rough bruiser that some mini-Hermitage styles can be.
Indeed, this Crozes is quite the medium-bodied, food-friendly, fantastically fun wine to go with almost any food on a balmy summer’s evening. It is a complete delight – to sniff it is to be be charmed, to drink it is to be smitten. Wonderful now and I would guess for a maximum of two to three years if you have some personality abnormality that prevents you from drinking good wine when it is at its glistering peak.
“How much must you pay for this delightful Crozes?” I hear you ask. A mere £17.70 per bottle in the Lay and Wheeler bin end sale. What a bargain!
Now how would I score this wine against the Brachetto and the German Riesling Kabinett I had the other day? Ha ha ha! Only kidding!