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“2015 is a joyous year at Crozes-Hermitage.”John Livingstone-Learmonth
“A huge success in 2015.”Jeb Dunnuck on Crozes-Hermitage
2015 is a great year for northern Rhône Syrah—rich and expressive young, yet with great structure for aging, they have it all.
And while 2015 is, as John Livingstone-Learmonth has written, “an excellent vintage on every level,” it is a particularly magical year for Crozes-Hermitage.
After decades of being overlooked as Côte Rôtie, Cornas and Saint-Joseph each enjoyed its renaissance, Crozes-Hermitage is now poised as the next northern Rhône appellation to catch fire.
The glorious 2015 growing season is the perfect vehicle to show just what Crozes is capable of. But, as always with any fine wine region, it comes down to producer and terroir.
It took a high level of skill in farming and winemaking, applied to great sites, to maximize the potential of this miraculous year. The four Crozes growers offered here accomplished just that. They include an established star, Alain Graillot, along with three rising stars in Emmanuel Darnaud, Aléofane’s Natacha Chave and Julien Cécillon.
To celebrate what was achieved in Crozes in 2015, we’ve assembled a mixed pack of these four important growers. Our assortment is a great opportunity to get to know who is writing this new chapter in Crozes history.
While Syrah + granite is the dominant theme throughout most of the northern Rhône’s red wine communes, Crozes-Hermitage’s soils are diverse, with granite only in the north. In the rest of the appellation, you’ll find clay and sand soils, and galets roulés covered plains—like those of Châteauneuf du Pape.
And Syrah’s famed sensitivity to where it is grown, expressed through the lens of each grower’s methods, makes for an array of Crozes Syrah expression as fascinatingly varied as its makers.
Prior to 1985, Alain Graillot had never made wine but, inspired as a client of Guigal and Jaboulet, he gave up his career in business to become a vigneron. As he explained to John Livingstone-Learmonth, “I wanted to make a Syrah wine, which I couldn’t do with a full-time job.”
Alain was a quick study, and he has been a Crozes star ever since. His calling cards are the finely structured, richly black-fruited wines he makes from his 40-year-old Syrah vines at Les Chênes Verts, on the boulder-strewn Chassis plain. His 2015 Crozes, whole-cluster fermented for two weeks and then aged for a year in mostly neutral barrels, is classic Graillot.
The daughter of another long-established grower, Bernard Chave, Aléofane’s Natacha Chave returned to Crozes a decade ago from her university studies to establish her own domaine. From old Syrah vines in several galets-covered clay sites in Chassis, Chave’s methods—destemmed fruit for fine tannins, aging in older demi-muids for perfume—have resulted in a focused, expressive wine ranked near the top of Livingstone-Learmonth’s 2015 Crozes hierarchy.
Emmanuel Darnaud got his start working with his father-in-law, traditional northern Rhône giant Bernard Faurie, whose teachings led Darnaud to a classic approach, painstaking in its detail and adept in its application.
The “mini-Hermitage depth” of Darnaud’s 2015 Les Trois Chênes can be credited to the skillful blending of his many Crozes-Hermitage plots a talent learned during his four-year apprenticeship with Faurie prior to founding his own domaine.
A relative newcomer, Julien Cécillon comes with an impressive pedigree and wine in his blood. Among the ten generations of vignerons from whom he’s descended is his legendary uncle Jean-Louis Grippat, whom John Livingstone-Learmonth called “the consummate quality vigneron of Tournon in my youth.”
Cécillon’s Les Marguerites comes from eighty-year-old vines in the Pierre Aiguille (Stone Needle) climat, set in an amphitheater on the eastern slope of the Hermitage hill. Its depth and pure expression of this fine terroir comes from his allegiance to time-honored methods: native yeast fermentations using 90% whole-clusters and gentle extractions, followed by 14-to- 17 months aging in used pièces and demi-muids.
Our selection is a study in how four of Crozes’ finest growers interpreted a historic growing season. This is a remarkable opportunity to explore the best of this rising appellation in a great vintage. If you love fine northern Rhône Syrah, don’t miss it.
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