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France - northern Rhône Valley

Featuring Domaine Belle, Cave de Tain, Clusel-Roch & Chapoutier; 'Touring Crozes-Hermitage country': Jaboulet, Chave, Combier, Delas, Graillot, Rémizières-Desmeure, Robin, Chasselvin-Chomarat, Fayolle and Hauts-Chassis. And tons of Syrah!

Domaine Belle: Crozes-Hermitage (Nov 2014)
M. Chapoutier: Hermitage (Dec 2009)
Domaine Clusel-Roch: Côte Rotie (Jan 2010)
Cave de Tain L'Hermitage: Crozes, St-Joseph, Cornas, Hermitage (Jan 2013)
Domaine Collonge 2009 Crozes-Hermitage and Cave de St-Désirat 2009 Saint-Joseph (M&S tasting Nov 2011).

'Touring Crozes-Hermitage country' featuring these wineries: Chapoutier, Cave de Tain, Jaboulet, Yann Chave, Laurent Combier, Delas Frères, Alain Graillot, Rémizières-Desmeure, Gilles Robin, Chasselvin-Chomarat, Cave Fayolle, Hauts Chassis; and some touristy stuff such as Valrhona choc factory and the magnificently bizarre Palais Idéal... Part of this feature was originally written for the website winetourisminfrance.com (2007).

Crozes-Hermitage literally stands in the imposing shadow of the Hermitage hillside vineyard, but do the wines lag far behind in its awesome wake? The busy little town of Tain l’Hermitage, on the Rhone’s right bank north of Valence, forms the heart of the appellation (AOC) and where the eponymous hill starts to rise steeply, immediately behind the station, adorned with placards carrying those oh-so famous names (Chapoutier, Jaboulet…) and the landmark Chapelle revered by wine lovers around the globe.
Crozes-Hermitage’s vineyards extend across 1450 ha (about 3500 acres) to the north, south and east of Tain taking in the villages of Erôme, Serves, Gervans, Larnage, Mercurol, Chanos-Curson, Beaumont Monteux, La Roche de Glun and Pont de l’Isère. And by the way, there is actually a cute wee village called Crozes-Hermitage, just north of Tain, which obviously gave its name to the AOC area.
In common with other northern Rhone wine regions, sensuous Syrah is the sole red variety planted and also the mainstay grape accounting for 95% of production. Red wine styles range from vibrant red and black fruits with white pepper and violet notes; to dense, firm-textured and smoky with occasional chocolate oak overtones. The white wines are built upon Marsanne, adding richness and honeyed nutty fruit; and Roussanne, more perfumed, floral and lightly exotic.

Wine route

Crozes-Hermitage producers have inaugurated a signposted wine route, which is part of the Route du Septentrion (‘the northern road’: see www.vins-rhone.com), including many of the region’s 50 or so family estates, co-operative cellars and négociants (merchant houses).

Big producers
(read on for total Crozes tasting winery A to Z and all my recommendations)

Tain l’Hermitage makes a good base and starting point for a short break or extended wine tour. Maison Chapoutier, the largest vineyard owner after the massive Cave de Tain co-op, has a tasting cellar cum fancy shop a stone’s throw from the station (avenue du Docteur Paul Durand, 04 75 08 92 61, www.chapoutier.com). Their apparently top-of-the-range Crozes Les Varonniers (€30) isn’t my favourite example, but you can try and buy from their whole Rhone, Roussillon and Australian portfolio here. And there's a link to notes on a couple of their 2006 Hermitages at the top of this page, by the way.
Cave de Tain (route de Larnage, 04 75 08 20 87, www.cavedetain.com) is the biggest - 1100 ha of vineyards across the AOC - of only two co-ops (Clairmonts is the other one). Their 2005 Crozes reds, especially Les Hauts de Fiefs compared to the rich peppery and leathery 2003, show a change in winemaking style towards purer fruit and (unfortunately perhaps) newer oak. And the 2006 white is a zingy apricot-scented crowd-pleaser. Heading south out of Tain, then turn left onto the D153 following the river Isère passed their offices in La Roche de Glun and on to Châteauneuf sur Isère; household name Jaboulet (that’s Paul, now owned by Château La Lagune’s Frey family as opposed to Philippe and Vincent, who’ve set up their own domaine) has a spectacular barrel cellar cut out of the rock called Vineum (04 75 47 35 55, www.jaboulet.com). You can taste all their wines in situ: out of the various Crozes labels, I rather liked the 2004 Raymond Roure and Thalabert (about £15 in UK wine merchants or e.g. surf4wine) reds.

Small(er) producers

There are plenty of good ones to visit, so here’s a few recommendations divided into ‘well-known names’ and ‘new faces’ including one or two particularly memorable wines per estate. See below for total Crozes tasting winery A to Z and my recommendations.
The Chave name usually turns up in conversation about talented northern Rhone producers: Yann is another very promising Chave - son of Bernard, different from the Jean-Louis Chave lot I think (confusing isn't it) - based in Mercurol (La Burge, 04 75 07 42 11). And rightly so, judging by his seductive 2005 Crozes Chave red and smoky maturing 2001 Tête de Cuvée. Domaine Laurent Combier (Pont de l’Isère, 04 75 84 61 56) farms their Clos des Grives vineyards organically, and the reds show good depth of fruit and duck-orientated tannins (careful with the oak though!). Over that same dinner, Jacques Grange, from Delas Frères in Saint Jean de Muzols (ZA de l’Olivet, 04 75 08 92 97, www.delas.com), philosophised: “I don’t know how to make recipe wine: you try to control all the elements, more or less, and make something you like. It’s flattering when people agree; when someone sniffs the wine and smiles, ‘c’est gagné’ (you’ve got them).” Well, his rich minty 2003 Le Clos and Burgundy-like 2005 Les Launes white proved the point.
Alain Graillot (Les Chenes Verts, Pont de l’Isère, 04 75 84 67 52) has built up quite a reputation in France and worldwide, yet remains a down-to-earth grower with a straightforward approach. His delicious well-balanced 2005 Crozes (€15) is pretty benchmark and 2006 from the barrel shows fresh pure fruit, like several from this attractive, more forward vintage. Philippe Desmeure, owner of Domaine de Rémizières – Cave Desmeure (route de Romans, Mercurol: 04 75 03 44 28), is crafting powerful red cuvées, called Particulière and Christophe, that need time to open up. His 2005 white is rich yet lively too. Also found in the village of Mercurol, Gilles Robin (Les Châssis Sud, 04 75 08 43 28) took over the family estate ten years ago. His reds - 2005 Albéric Bouvet and softer 2006 Papillon (£13.50/£10.95 Lea & Sandeman shops, London: Chelsea, Kensington & Barnes) - and 2006 white are equally thrilling.

Etienne and Dorothée Chomarat started Domaine Chasselvin (Beaumont Monteux, 04 75 08 94 02), formerly Chasselières, in 2005. They make two red Crozes cuvées (cellar door prices €8.70 and €11.70) and, judging by the very impressive first-vintage 2005s, are definitely one to watch. Cave Fayolle Fils et Fille (rue du Ruisseau, Gervans: 04 75 03 33 74, www.cave-fayolle.com), although the family is among the area’s longest-standing independent growers, perhaps comes under ‘new faces’. Namely Laurent Fayolle and his sister Céline, who now run the estate since their father and uncle decided to go their separate ways. Try their black cherry/soy sauce 2005 and 2006 Sens reds or honeysuckle and aniseed 2006 Les Pontaix white. Franck Faugier was a co-op grower for many years before setting up Domaine Les Hauts Chassis (La Roche de Glun, 04 75 84 50 26) in 2003. He makes a white Crozes and three reds – Esquisse (€9.50), Les Galets (€10) and Les Châssis (€14) – the latter 2004 offering smoky development and elegance.

Wine events and other attractions

Grape harvest festival: third weekend in September, more info from Tain l’Hermitage tourist office (place du 8 mai 1945, 04 75 08 06 81: www.tain-tourisme.com).
Tain Wine Fair: last weekend in February, more info as above.
Jazz en Caves (Cellar Jazz): second weekend in May, more info from the Maison des Vins (avenue Maréchal Foch, Tournon, 04 75 07 91 50).
Tain is also home of the Valrhona chocolate factory, which turns out some of France’s yummiest dark chocolate. There’s a shop and they hold cooking classes too – just follow your nose (avenue du Président Roosevelt, 04 75 07 90 90: www.valrhona.com). Heading northeast a few kilometres out of the appellation, the Palais Idéal in Hauterives (04 75 68 81 19, www.facteurcheval.com) is a must-see for anyone who appreciates wild imagination. In the middle of peaceful, tree-sheltered gardens stands the magnificently bizarre creation/building/work of art sculpted by postman Ferdinand Cheval. Reminiscent of Gaudí’s architecture, a contemporary, it has a smattering of Hieronymus Bosch meets Indo-China (without the imperialism). And at the end of June, it’s the backdrop to an evening blues concert sponsored by Crozes wine producers (meaning you can taste and listen).

Eating, accommodation and getting there

For posh cooking and prices, you could try Brasserie 7 by Anne-Sophie Pic, next to her three Michelin-starred restaurant and hotel in Valence (avenue Victor Hugo, 04 75 44 92 31); and, in Pont de l’Isère, Michel Chabran’s one Michelin-starred restaurant and hotel (avenue du 45ème parallèle, 04 75 84 60 09: www.michelchabran.fr). He’s also opened an airy brasserie in Tain called Le Quai (04 75 07 05 90), overlooking the river and old wooden Marc-Sequin bridge.
Hotels in Tain l’Hermitage: Le Pavillon de l’Ermitage, avenue Jean Jaurès; 04 75 08 65 00, www.pavillon-ermitage.com. Three-star hotel in need of a little redecoration, although the rooms are spacious (from €75): ask for one on the side street as the main road is noisy. Les 2 Coteaux, rue Joseph-Péala (opposite Le Quai); 04 75 08 33 01, www.hotel-les-2-coteaux.com: cosy rooms from €50. Travelling to Tain: exit 13, A7 motorway; not far from Valence TGV station; and about 100 km from Lyon airport.

Richard James for www.winetourisminfrance.com summer 2007

Completely Crozes tasting A to Z

I've added a few comments or tit-bits of info (in text above) to the wineries I actually visited. Otherwise these wines were tasted together in a line-up, a kind of 'horizontal' for the 2005 reds as we tried lots one after the other; most of the whites outside at a free-pour tasting at the Palais Idéal (see above); and/or over lunch/dinner (see above) with the growers, especially the older wines. 2005 has been hailed as a great vintage in the northern Rhône, and there's plenty of evidence here that tallies with that, red and white. However, I and other tasters also found some of them more than austere with un-charming extracted tannins, showing perhaps that some producers overdid it given the fruit quality and ripeness; although for sure several of them just weren't showing their true potential back in summer 2007. I like the 2006s, maybe more straightforward yet virtually all the reds have gorgeous pure fruit characters and the whites are fresh and lively. 2004 appears to have nurtured elegant balanced wines, some of which are drinking very nicely now. 2003, that heatwave year, has given us some superb reds but some rather awkward ones too. I'll reiterate my comments on red styles: ranging from vibrant red and black fruits with white pepper and violet notes; to dense, firm-textured and smoky with occasional chocolate oak overtones. That last note about wood-ageing can also be applied to white wines: please don't go too far down the 'impressive new oak' route; only samey wines lie down that path, even if they are rich and well-textured! Syrah doesn't need it, generally speaking, particularly in this region where you often get that lovely floral spicy black cherry fruit naturally. In MHO of course...

Domaine des 7 Chemins - Pont de l’Isère; Jean-Louis Buffière

2005 Crozes-Hermitage - ripe and smoky nose with cinnamon edges; full rounded palate showing nice fruit and oak-textured tannins, freshness v structure; well made although a bit 'could be from anywhere' in style. 85-87
2005 Crozes-Hermitage - creamy with oatmeal and aniseed notes, nutty honeyed richness and fairly toasty; oily texture and roundness with powerful yet fresh finish. 88

Domaine Roland Betton - La Roche de Glun

2005 CH – closed nose showing light pepper tones, tight long palate with nice tannins and pure length; not very revealing at the moment, could develop and fill out? 85-87
2006 CH – zippy mineral style, quite steely mouth-fell v honeyed fruit and refreshing length. 85-87

Maison Chapoutier - Tain-l’Hermitage

2005 CH Les Varonniers – "modern" fruity style with toasted coconut notes, very dry tannins v fresh berry fruit; a bit clumsy although it's quite concentrated, not sure about that strange cardboard-like oak flavour on the finish? 85?

Domaine Chasselvin/Chomarat - Beaumont Monteux

Former co-op growers Etienne and Dorothée Chomarat have 7 ha/17 acres, all Syrah and all in the Crozes-Hermitage appellation (although they did plant some Marsanne in 2007) planted with seven to 60 year-old vines. A three ha plot of the latter grown on stony soil is the source of their top cuvée, called Les Lierres, which is aged for a year in barrels (with "very little new wood," I was told). The rest of the vineyard, largely made up of "earthy soil" (hmm, must be a better translation than that...) gives fruit that's vinified in stainless steel tanks only. Their new winery (practical if not pretty) was "just ready in time for the 2006 vintage; in the beginning (2005), we rented a cellar from Chave." Over to the wines:
2005 CH – lovely white pepper and black cherry with light liquorice notes, quite stonky palate with very firm tannins yet nice depth of fruit, lingering liquorice with a dark chocolate bitter twist. 89-91
2005 CH Les Lierres – the oak does come through showing vanilla and coco choco tones; however, it waltzes on to a rounded and more powerful palate with solid fine tannins v delicious depth of vibrant fruit, finishing again with tight length. 91-93

Domaine Yann Chave - Mercurol

2001 CH Tête de Cuvée – sexy smoky white peppery nose with black cherry and liquorice, lush and exotic v tight and structured. Going back to it (over dinner), the tannins are rounding out so it's quite soft and elegant in the end, revealing more raspberry fruit v light dry grip; drinking nicely now with hearty food. 92
2005 CH Chave – rich aromas of white pepper and seductive fruit, chunky tannins with menthol and cherry flavours, attractive depth v firm backbone. 90
2005 CH Le Rouvre – tighter and firmer showing a touch of oak and fresh acidity, higher alcohol with a firm tight long finish. A bit austere, needs some time. 90?
2006 CH – intense crisp gooseberry v honeyed fruit leads on to creamier, yeast-lees edges; taut and long-ish finish. 87-89

Cave des Clairmonts – Beaumont-Monteux; Jean-Michel Borja, cavedesclairmonts.com

2005 CH – appealing floral black cherry and spice aromas, rather firm and charmless at the moment, fresh finish v background fruit. 80
2005 Domaine des Clairmonts CH (organic) – a bit closed with some simple cherry boiled sweets fruit, again quite hard and dry; not sure. 83-85?

Domaine du Colombier – Mercurol; Florent & David Viale

2005 CH – a little reduced (?) and herbal on the nose, moves on to a tight firm palate with attractive crunchy fruit; lingering fruit v a touch dry and extracted, shame as it shows real depth. 87+?
2005 CH – very toasty although richly textured; actually went well with the mustard, honey, saffron, spud and seafood starter. 85+

Domaine Laurent Combier - Pont de l’Isère

2004 Clos des Grives CH (organic) – quite toasty yet has complex floral exotic notes, fairly full with chocolate spice v attractive fruit, powerful although not too alcoholic; pity as the oak is just a tad too heavy, although it was better with the 'mise en bouche' (fancy chef talk for a little pre-starter). 87
2006 CH – toasty coconut spice on the nose leads on to tight and fresh mouth-feel with aniseed bite, a bit closed on the finish but promising. 87?

2005 CH – smoky ripe black cherry tones, chunky firm tannins v nice pruney fruit showing good balance and well-handled winemaking. 87-89
2003 Clos des Grives CH – rustic white pepper notes with herbal blackberry and choco oak, lush fruit v textured tannins; nice with the duck, otherwise a tad too choco oaky. 88
2005 Clos des Grives CH – plenty of choco oak but much more fruit than the 03, coconut flavoured/textured tannins v enticing depth of fruit. 89

Emmanuel Darnaud – La Roche de Glun

2004 CH – smoky toasty black pepper and chocolate oak, although layered with ripe black fruits; solid textured tannins, a touch charred but still rich and smoky on the finish. 89

Domaine Delas Frères - Saint-Jean-de-Muzols

2003 Le Clos CH – smoky yet perfumed with floral black cherry notes, mint tinged lush fruit; very firm palate but not unripe, nice black fruits and wild herbs on its tight and powerful length. 89-91
2005 CH – lovely pure menthol raspberry fruit with spicy black cherry edges, fresh bite of light tannins, pretty elegant in fact. 88-90
2005 Les Launes CH – rich and creamy with oily mineral tones and roasted hazelnut, quite big mouthful yet lively and interesting finish. 89

Cave Fayolle Fils et Fille – Gervans village; cave-fayolle.com

Brother and sister Laurent & Céline Fayolle are the fourth generation to run the estate, although reduced in size - 8.5 ha/21 acres including some vineyards within the Hermitage appellation - since it was divided into two family properties (a terminal disagreement between father and uncle, it seems). It's made up of two, mostly hillside parcels around Gervans and the little village of Crozes itself: one where the vines are on average 40 years old and the other nearing the grand retirement age of 60; the latter vineyard also contains one close-planted ha/2.5 acres of old-vine Marsanne for their white. The wines are shipped into the UK by Thorman Hunt.
2005 Les Pontaix CH – little nose at first, hints of light spicy blackcurrant and cherry, fresh and peppery, firm yet lively finish. 85+
2005 Sens CH – reduced soy sauce and red pepper tones lead on to attractive 'sweeter' palate, touches of leather and pepper; solid tannins v elegant depth of fruit, meatier finish. 89-91

2006 Les Pontaix CH (100% Marsanne) – honeysuckle and aniseed aromas move on to nice zingy mouth-feel with mineral bite, quite punchy alcohol yet concentrated fruit and tasty length. 88-90
2006 Sens CH – floral spicy black cherry and menthol, attractive fruit v firm rounded tannins and refreshing intensity. 89
2006 Les Pontaix CH – dry grip v forward peppery cherry fruit, ripe v firm with black olive finish. 87
2006 Clos les Cornirets CH vieilles vignes – smoky, violet, Black Forest gateau and liquorice; dry solid texture with tight length and bitter-sweet fruit. Should develop nicely. 90
2005 Clos les Cornirets – earthy black cherry and liquorice notes, very firm tannins v lush dark fruit, powerful tense finish; needs a few years. 90-92
2005 Hermitage – oily mineral and honeysuckle with creamy edges, compelling palate with full nutty flavours and intense fruit, buttery v mineral; long stylish and commanding. 92-94
2005 Hermitage – roast cherries with meaty edges, lively 'sweet' fruit with liquorice notes; powerful and steadfast with dry v ripe texture, tight powerful yet elegant too. 92-94

Domaine Alain Graillot - Pont de l’Isère

Household name Alain Graillot has 21 ha/52 acres of Crozes vineyards, most of them around the cellar and planted with Syrah. He's recently bought and planted a 1 ha plot on slopes very near to the AOC Hermitage border, the idea being to create a future stand-alone cru label, if the wine's good enough.

2006 CH (80% Marsanne 20% Roussanne) – aromatic floral nose with apricot and honeysuckle, subtle creamy yeast-lees backdrop v fresh fruit and length. 87-89
2006 CH (barrel sample) – delicious pure pepper and cherry fruit, bouncy mouth-feel with light dry tannins and coating, attractive length. 87-89
2005 CH – gorgeously pure aromatic spicy nose with Black Forest gateau and subtle chocolate oak; lovely depth of fruit v firm yet rounded framework with nice tannin/oak texture, refined although muscular; very promising. 90+
2005 La Guirone Saint-Joseph – open for 3 days before we tasted it: appealing savoury v black cherry fruit, quite rich v resolute tannins; closed and a bit awkward finish, needs time to settle down. 90

Domaine Habrard – Gervans

2005 CH – complex herbal nose with soy, spicy blackberry and light leather tones; firm and extracted palate but shows good depth of dark cherry fruit. Time will tell. 87-89?
2006 CH – full and creamy with a zippy aniseed palate, tight finish verging on bitter. 83-85

Domaine Les Hauts Chassis - La-Roche-de-Glun

Franck Faugier's estate name is less than five years old and embraces 12 ha/30 acres of red Crozes, one ha of white varieties and one ha of St-Joseph next door added in 2007. Looking at my notes, I'd say he has a strong future ahead of him.

2006 Esquisse CH – endearing vibrant black cherry with menthol, pepper and smoky tones; scrumptious fruit v firm rounded tannins and refreshing length. 87-89
2005 Les Galets CH – quite elegant peppery cassis notes with a hint of liquorice, refined taut style with reverberant fruit and a tad of chocolate oak (1 to 5 year-old casks); pretty firm although still attractive finish. 87-89
2005 Les Châssis CH – a touch herbaceous and/or reduced at first, but this had lifted off the second time I tasted it later; delicious palate, initially tight yet promising depth of fruit, again elegant style showing fine dry tannins and a bit of class on its long finish. 89-91
2004 Les Châssis – smokier and finer, still tense and firm v delightful fruit concentration and subtle length. 92-94
2006 CH (Mars Rouss) – nice floral brisk nose v exotic fruit and aniseed bite, power v citrus zest. Made from three year-old vines! 87-89

Maison Paul Jaboulet - La-Roche-de-Glun; Jean-Luc Chapel.

No longer owned by the Jaboulet family but the Frey's of Château La Lagune fame, who've ploughed in quite a bit of cash. Vineyard holdings total nearly 100 ha/250 acres across the region's appellations; we had the opportunity to taste most of them in their extraordinary Vineum cellar carved out of rock (although the day we were there they were having the metal bits painted or treated, so forgive any strange tasting notes...)

2004 Raymond Roure CH (100% Marsanne) – fuller fruit (comparing with the other two whites that weren't terribly good) with nutty, peach stone notes v creamy oak; rounded mouth-feel, drinking nicely now. 85-87
2004 CH – elegant lighter style with peppery fresh palate, aromatic Syrah fruit and subtle length; nice with lamb. 87-89
2004 Thalabert CH – lovely violet spices and raspberry & black cherry fruit, 'sweet' v fresh palate; very attractive now. 88-90
2001 Thalabert CH – developing gamey savoury fruit v 'sweet' tannins; smoky and meaty v ripe and rich with complex herbal tones; very drinkable now especially with rustic cuisine. 90-92
2004 Raymond Roure CH – similar to the Thalabert, more concentrated and firmer; closes up on the finish, needs a bit longer. 89-91

2005 Les Jalets CH – scented 'sweet' raspberry and violets, quite fine and soft then more solid to finish. 87-89
2001 Saint-Pierre Cornas – smoky developed nose, leathery and savoury v 'sweet' fruit; dry yet fine tannins with a touch of power too. 89
2005 Le Grand Pompée Saint-Joseph – steadfast and closed palate, shows good balance of extraction and subtle length. 89-91?
2003 La Petite Chapelle Hermitage – savoury and leather notes tinged with dark chocolate and very ripe black cherry, chunky tannins but well-handled with appropriately long length! 92

Domaine Michelas – Saint-Jemms; Sylvie Michelas Chevrol

2006 CH – tightly focused style with subtle toasted oak, fresh bite v creamy yeast-lees texture/flavour; well-handled winemaking. 87-89

Domaine Mucyn – Gervans; Jean-Pierre & Hélène Mucyn

2005 CH – smoky menthol and cooked black cherry fruit with leather undertones (perhaps good old-fashioned brett but it's nice anyway?), peppery and firm mouth-feel v rounded ripe fruit. 87-89

Domaine du Pavillon – Mercurol; Stéphane Cornu

2005 CH (organic) – lightly rustic v herbal black cherry; nice fruit on the palate v firm dry tannins, weight v freshness. 87+

Domaine Etienne Pochon – Chanos-Curson

2005 Château Curson CH – oaky start with shut-in fruit; quite rich and smoky on the palate with oaky-coco texture, the fruit seems a bit stripped but it could just be totally closed up. 85+?
2005 CH – enticing flowery apricot flavours with an aniseed bite, lush nutty/oaky roundness v energetic powerful mouth-feel. Good with spiced chicken or fresh cod. 87-89

Domaine Michel Poinard - La-Roche-de-Glun; Christelle Betton

2005 CH – charming dark fruits and light chocolate cocktail, rounded palate with attractive texture layered with fruit, elegant and quite long. 89
2005 CH – mineral v nutty style with lean and elegant intensity. 87

Domaine Pradelle - Chanos-Curson; Jean-Louis Pradelle

2006 CH – gentle exotic apricot with underlying spicy toasted notes, smooth and quite fat with a touch of freshness; nice although lacks a bit of excitement. 85
1998 CH – intriguing oxidised honeyed Fino style, white peach and almond notes; past its max really but interesting anyway. 85+
2004 CH – oily mineral richness v honeysuckle perfume, showing attractive maturing fruit. 87-89
2004 Hirondelles CH – a tad baked and stalky on the nose, moves on to an appealing elegant peppery palate; nice subtle cut on the finish with the lamb dish. 83-85

Domaine de Rémizières - Cave Desmeure – Mercurol

2005 Particulière CH – a touch cooked with cherry jam aromas, powerful and aromatic; chunky and lush with big dry tannins v underlining 'sweetness', firm refreshing finish showing commanding length. 88
2005 Christophe CH – sexy rustic white pepper and ripe cherry fruit dusted with coconut oak, rich chunky mouth-feel displaying weight, concentration and resolute tannins; oak handling done well, needs some time to come together. 90-92
2005 CH – toasty and buttery v aniseed freshness, quite potent on the finish but not unbalanced. 88

Domaine Gilles Robin – Mercurol

2005 Albéric Bouvet CH – closed nose yet nice traces of menthol and black cherry, fruitier palate with taut length and bite v pure vibrant fruit; needs a bit of time. 89-91
2006 Papillon CH – again this shows delicious peppery dark cherry, softer fruity palate yet lively and chunky. 89
2006 CH – floral, mineral and nutty aromas; leads on to fairly full and creamy mouth-feel v nutty dry tang, fruity v zesty length. 89US distributor: Martine’s Wines (Novato, California). UK: Lea & Sandeman shops (London) and Great Western Wine Company (Bath).

Cave de Tain – Tain-l'Hermitage

2005 CH – a bit reduced and closed, chunky and vibrant palate with dry tannins v 'sweet' raspberry/cherry fruit; a touch tart but it should open up in a few months. 85
2003 Les Hauts de Fiefs CH – light brett/rustic notes edged with white pepper, but showing nice pure ripe Syrah fruit underneath; liquorice and black cherry with leather undertones, slightly bitter on the finish although smoky fruit and power too. 85-87
2005 Les Hauts de Fiefs CH – pretty heavy choco vanilla oak underpinned by enticing menthol cherry fruit, tightly textured tannins and showing promise. 87-89
2006 CH – attractively aromatic with exotic apricot and floral fruit, pleasing zingy finish. 87

Richard Mark James summer 2007

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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.