Wednesday, March 2, 2011

2007 Crozes-Hermitage

2007 Domaine Belle Les Pierreles Crozes-Hermitage

2007 Domaine Belle Les Pierrelles, AC Crozes-Hermitage

You see, this is a perfect example of how your perception of a wine can be wildly divergent from wine professionals. With all due respect, because I actually do agree with his tastes more often than not, John Szabo MS was way off on this Crozes-Hermitage. Way off. John wrote in his January 28th WineAlign newsletter:

There was more than a subtle murmur of excitement in the LCBO tasting lab as the writers came upon the Crozes-Hermitage, made from pure syrah. The appellation is not as highly regarded as the neighboring hill of Hermitage to the south, nor Côte-Rôtie across on the west banks of the Rhône River and further up-stream, nor even Cornas opposite. It’s more variable in style and quality, with some Crozes made using the technique of carbonic maceration to yield soft, simple, fruity reds for early enjoyment, while others are just simply lighter and less complex versions of more ‘serious’ northern Rhône syrahs. Yet there are a few producers with privileged sites whose exceptions prove the rules. Alain Graillot comes to mind, as does Jaboulet’s Domaine du Thalabert. Domaine Belle, on the other hand, is a new discovery for me, and it seems, is under the radar for many.


Domaine Belle is a modest-sized family-run estate located in the village of Larnage, just a few kilometers north of the Hermitage AOC. Former member of the very good co-op in Tain-Hermitage, Philippe struck out on his own in 1988 after he had completed his winemaking education in Montpellier. The LES PIERRELLES CROZES-HERMITAGE is made from vines in the vineyard of the same name. It has classic spicy, peppery, leathery, unmistakable northern Rhône-styling, with character and class well above the asking price, and the depth and complexity of many Côte-Rôties and Hermitages. It also has the potential to improve with age over the next 2-3 years. In the US this sells regularly for about $30/bottle, so at $22.95, I’d consider it top value.

Pretty words, but in my opinion, the wine was anything but authentic, regional, or worth drinking. Bottle variation, tasting conditions aside, the wine tasted nothing like the above description. Nothing alike. It was overly macerated, confected, with a limp, flabby body. Cheap. Difficult to find any redeeming values - perhaps if it was $12.95, it wouldn't sting as much, but for $23, this is an incredibly limp-dicked wine.

I like syrah, especially from the northern Rhône. This should have been a quality wine, implied by both price and the labelling of a lieu-dit. So what's going on? Was this a bad bottle? Is my tasting ability suspect? Or is it the simple fact that everyone has different tastes and as much as you would like to, you can't always trust what a wine writer lays down in print.

Just don't tell me this is what a good syrah tastes like. It's not.


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