This Crozes-Hermitage is one of the best value wines we could wish to see. It is elegant, complex, subtle and balanced with a concentrated core of red berry fruits, laced with appropriate levels of nuanced oak. It is outstanding and will make you wonder if the step up to Hermitage is one you need to take...!
Made exclusively from Syrah grapes, the vines for this wine are grown in two zones close to the hill of Hermitage. One is on the north-east of the outskirts of the town of Tain l'Hermitage (right outside the hill of Hermitage) and the other is ten kilometres away in the southern reaches of the appellation, giving the perfect balance of fruit in the resulting wine - warmth and freshness.
The two vineyards are made of limestone and sand; the grapes are (unsurprisingly) hand harvested before very gentle extraction and fermentation, which takes place over a three week period in large open oak vats. Aging in barriques is for about 16 months and gives a platform for the fruit to show perfume and charm, rather than giving the wine any oak-ily dominant flavours that would overpower it.
This is a stunning red from one of the northern Rhone's top producers.
If you like the idea of Hermitage or Côte Rotie but balk at the prices, then this is for you. If you only want to buy one really, really good bottle of French red, then, again, this is certainly for you. It's even from a very famous village itself.
This champion wine-maker of the Rhone produces some of the most exclusive wines in the region. Cuilleron knows exactly what each plot is able to yield in terms of quality, style and character and in that regard is a master of all of the vines he tends. This wine is made from the best selection of vines on the hills next to the most famed sites in the Rhone, and they are a selection found only on shallow, sandy, granitic soils that are so special to Saint Joseph. This base provides a superb platform for the grapes to ripen with minimal intervention from the vineyard team, who, in truth, only fertilise when necessary with organic fertilisers and don't even spray with insecticides. The result is this wonderfully complex, rich and pure varietal wine that is then treated like royalty (in the positive sense). It has a slow fermentation of about three weeks in open-top fermenters before being transferred to barriques where maloc-lactic fermentation takes place during its 18-month aging, providing the wine with some oak flavour, but, better still, balance, complexity and space for the delivery of its charming character. A very special wine with totally integrated, mild tannins - perfect for drinking now and for up to a decade.
"Labaya" is not a reference to a group of non-drinking chums called Pete, but instead refers to the traditional dry-stone walls that are a significant feature of the region, where they support the steeply-terraced vineyards.
It's from the excellent 2021 vintage and though it's youthful for northern Rhône reds, I'd always ask myself if it is ready for drinking; in other words, is there any aspect of the wine that isn't quite right, or that will be ironed-out, or better in a year or so. The answer here, because of the skill of the winemaker, is no! It's perfectly ready to drink and there is nothing I'd want change now. It will develop and change subtly in time, but it won't get any better, nor any worse.
2021 was a nearly perfect vintage in the Northern Rhone and while other regions may have struggled, the Northern Rhone saw the best estates prepared and able to handle the weather to their advantage, even with smaller yields.
Top producer Jerome Coursodon summed it up like this: "The great news is that the result is exceptional both in a normal quantity and in a classically chiselled vintage with great balance and acidity, with alcohol between 12 and 13.2. I can’t wait to watch 2021 develop over the years. It could turn out to be one of the truly superb Northern Rhone vintages for in some time, without the excess sun that we’ve been used to recently."
Region: Rhone Valley
Style: Svelte, Structured, Pure, Organic, Medium Full, Iconic, Fresh, Fleshy, Dark, Complex
Best food matches: Venison, Tuna, Tapas, Steak, Roasts, Red Meats, Poultry, Mature Cheeses, Hard Cheeses, Grills, Fine Dining, Cheeses, Charcuterie, Beef, Barbecue