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Crozes Hermitage


Ron Johnson
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Interesting article in the NYTimes today about this wine that I have always enjoyed, especially those by Alain Graillot. I think Tim Kopec of Veritas put it brilliantly when he said "they all seem to be wines that speak of their origin; they're not wines filled with wine technique." What a perfect way to describe the difference between a real Rhone wine, and the Rhone-style wines coming out of California.

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Ron, do you have any that you'd particularly recommend (and how much they're likely to cost)?

I ask because of my recent experience with the wine: I've had four different bottles of Crozes Hermitage in the recent past that I remember. The first I really enjoyed and the other three have been attempts to recapture the enjoyment of the first but have failed. They seemed to lack the complexity of the first - I'd describe them as "inoffensive but boring". I'm afraid I can't recall the particulars - I really should write these things down. Admittedly I did pay the most for the first bottle but not by a huge margin.

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Stephen,

First stick to the good vintages. You are lucky that there has been a string of good ones recently '98-'01. '02 looks bad as there has been a huge flood.

Second stick to good producers. I like Alain Graillot, Gilles Robin, Delas Freres, and Bernard Chave (not same as J.L. Chave). I avoid Chapoutier, Jaboulet, and Guigal. For prices I would try to pay less than $20/bottle as that is the real draw of CH, however, I have paid more for some special designation wines from Graillot.

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My experience with Crozes (and to a lesser extent St. Joseph) is similar to Gigondas--almost every one I've had is a very good, spicy, robust Rhone--but at a higher price than a CDR would command, and without the complexity of a CNP, Cote-Rotie, Cornas, or Hermitage. I feel the same about the Clape CDR, Chave's Mon Coeur and Offerus (and other St. Josephs), and other high-ticket CDRs from big-name producers. The price-performance ratio isn't there for me. There have been exceptions, of course.

"Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon." --Dalai Lama

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I'm old enough to remember reading that Crozes-Hermitage was a cheap wine still trying to live off its neighbor's reputation. Often having the need to drink cheap wines that didn't stop me from trying them and over the years I've noticed that they are not all unworthy Cotes du Rhone, any longer.

At the low end, I've found Jaboulet's "les Jalets" a superb buy at the $10.99 I've been finding it. It didn't make their top ten, but at eleven dollars if still seems a great buy. Of course I'd like to find the Gilles Robin Paillon 2001 for $12, but there's a ton of les Jalet around and it should be easy to find and worth trying if anyone's looking for a $11 wine.

Robert Buxbaum

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Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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les jalets is easy enough to find, but i was very disappointed by the 2000 vintage. it is pretty thin & acidic by the '99 standard.

thalabert lacks the dusty rusticity of les jalets; again, the 2000 disappoints, but its a finer example of syrah fruit than qupe's central coast syrah (but not the bien nacido vineyard).

go with alain graillot.

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les jalets is easy enough to find, but i was very disappointed by the 2000 vintage.  it is pretty thin & acidic by the '99 standard.

I've been buying les Jalet for a few years now and the first bottle of the 2000 was disappointing, but I thought the second one was better. The 98 and 99 would be preferable if they're not all gone.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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sfroth -- couldn't agree more.  CH is basically table wine that once got a 96 in the Spectator and now commands a  $20 pricetag.  Pay the extra $5 and get a decent CNP.

I find absolutely nothing similar between a CNdP and a CH. CH is 100% syrah for god's sake. How many CdR's or CNdP's can make that claim, even the ones that can have markedly different characteristics. I have always been baffled by people who think that southern Rhones and northern Rhones are all the same. They are actually like two entirely different wine regions. I guess if you think Syrah and Grenache taste the same then your post makes sense.

As for "pay the extra $5 and get a decent CNP", I am not familiar with many decent CNP's in the price range, unless by decent you mean mediocre. The only CH I pay $20 for is Alain Graillot La Giraude. The Gilles Robin I bought last was $11.99. Thats less than many good CDR's.

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Perhaps its the 100% syrah that makes CH not to my taste. Outside of pinot, I can't think of a grape that is better as a single varietal than blended with other grapes. Of course, that's just my taste. And there are plenty of wines in the South that bear much of the Syrah character and fruit without the harsh bite I associate with pure varietals (affectionately known as "spice" to fans, I am sure).

I've tried the Graillot and was not impressed. I like my wines lean and long, and it was neither, with fruit and bite way out of balance. I think there are much better choices in the $15-25 range.

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sfroth -- couldn't agree more.  CH is basically table wine that once got a 96 in the Spectator and now commands a  $20 pricetag.  Pay the extra $5 and get a decent CNP.

I find absolutely nothing similar between a CNdP and a CH.

As for "pay the extra $5 and get a decent CNP", I am not familiar with many decent CNP's in the price range, unless by decent you mean mediocre.

I don't think we were saying they're similar. But in terms of price/performance, I've been happier with CnPs in the $20-25 range (Benoit Truffiere, Bois du Boursan) than with CH's in that range. I've never had that northern rhone hillside-syrah experience from a CH. (even the '90 Graillot, when I had it back in '94 or so, struck me as a good solid Rhone, but not so special.) But I'll try out some of the others suggested here. I'm always dying to find (even strong traces of) that experience under $20

It seems to me that Syrah has two expressions (at least in the old world)--what I call the flatland Syrah, which is spicy and robust, like wine from other Rhone varietals. Then there's the [insert Ron Johnson's favorite words here] style, which comes from the hillsides--Hermitage, Cornas, Cote Rotie.

This is not universal--quite a bit of Noel Verset's land is down on the flats, for instance and Domain des Grand Devers does some amazing Syrah juice way down in the flats of Valreas--but do others experience those two fairly distinct expressions?

"Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon." --Dalai Lama

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