With most Hermitage priced beyond the limits of most people’s wallets more and more people are making serious Crozes-Hermitage to try and fill the ‘affordable but serious wine’-gap. Alain Graillot was one of the first to concentrate his efforts on Crozes-Hermitage alone (he also made a Hermitage but generally refused to let people try it because he thought it was not a patch on his Crozes – he was actually embarrassed by it; I have no idea why as every bottle I have had has been bloody marvellous!). Although there were people, like the great and sadly departed Gerard Jaboulet, who made a serious Crozes alongside the premium Hermitage they made, Graillot made it OK for people to bring Crozes to serious wine tastings and not have scorn poured upon them (I am not thinking of the tastings I organised at Oxford, oh no…).
Of course, you have to be one of Yapp’s most loyal customers (what a terrible thing to be), or go to extremely serious American wine merchants and be prepared to part with a kidney to get Graillot these days. Luckily, where he led, others followed. Yann Chave is perhaps one of the more well known, probably in no small part due to name confusion of the famous but foul Hermitage producer. But there are others, and today we are trying one of my very favourites:
Crozes-Hermitage ‘Cuvee Gaby’ 2012, Domaine du Colombier
I am sorry that, despite years of drinking this, I have no idea who ‘Gaby’ is! If any more well-informed readers can fill us all in them do leave a comment. What I am sure about is that this smells totally wonderful.
The wine claims to be 13% on the label, but I think this is a hint over this, given its sweet, ripe fruit and polished loveliness. It was a ripe vintage (although not without problems), so high-ish alcohol is a distinct possibility. And it really does smell lovely, with rich, dark fruit and polished leather characters.
It is pretty sophisticated as well; if I were only allowed to smell this I would probably say it was a Domaine du Colombier Hermitage; it has the density and power of a really serious wine.
However, presumably because I know what this is, I feel I can detect a shade of Crozes on the nose: hints of the greenness of fresh cut grass. Do not get me wrong, though, this is a rich, spicy, juicy wine of delight, as far as most of the characteristics on the nose go.
Considering the bargain price of this Crozes Cuvee Gaby (both the Wine Society and Lay and Wheeler stock it), as soon as you pop a bottle and pour it you will be pretty god-damned-well pleased with where your fun tokens went. It just smells simply lovely in the most licentious, libidinous manner possible for a non-Pinot based wine.
And you will consider yourself even more blessed when you try it. It has dark, ripe fruit in decadent abundance, sweetened by that slightly high alcohol level. The entry, as it so often can be, is the doorway to greater pleasure ahead.
The mid-palate offers more spicy, rich but slightly crunchy fruit. The tannins begin to assert themselves the more you swill this around your North and South, and they resolve into the (very slightly) green and (even more slightly) prickly tannins of Crozes Hermitage. That would be the clue for anymore (including me) to guess this as Crozes. I would also say the acidity is more Crozes-like than Hermitage-like.
But do not let this worry you, this is a seriously tits out for the boys (and lesbians, moobs out for the straight girls and gays – possibly…) bundle of laughs and good times as far as Crozes goes. It reminds me very much of the 1990 and 1991 Crozes from Graillot I drank an embarrassingly large amount of whilst at Oxford. Indeed, it reminds me even more of Alain’s 1990 Hermitage my chums Edward, Greg, Simon and I got to neck vast quantities of at a lunch chez Graillot (we were on the bad boys’ table away from all the well-behaved people).
This is a very Hermitage-y Crozes, clearly benefitting from good vineyard management, in a not entirely easy vintage, and excellent wine-making. It is one of the great bargains of the wine world, in almost any vintage; one of those wines you snap up as soon as you see it. Indeed, if I had noticed this before dropping some sponds on a meagre two bottles of Colombier Hermitage, I daresay my buying strategy would have been different.