Ripe brambles, scented open fruit flavours, notes of crème de mure and salt, supple but binding tannins. Engaging, pretty and characterful. A very serious Crozes. A selection of old vines on the estate planted by Florent's grandfather, Gaby.
The continuing elevation of this Domaine into the lofty heights of Hermitage greatness is testament to the hard work of the tall, spindly owner Florent Viale. He gives his wines a prolonged maturation of a year and a half which he believes removes the need for filtration and prefers using oak tonneaux for this process rather than the smaller 225 litre barriques so as not to dampen terroir and fruit. As a result, both the Cuvée Gaby and Hermitage are powerful and wholesome but not without a touch of class. The latter wine comes from several parcels on the hill of Hermitages including Les Bessards. The grapes are destalked and Florent never uses more than 20% new oak. The wines are therefore a surprisingly elegant example of Hermitages.
Crozes-Hermitage is the Northern Rhône's biggest appellation covering the rolling hills surrounding Hermitage. Most of the wine is red and made exclusively from Syrah though some very good value whites can be found from the Marsanne and Roussanne grape varieties. Curiously there are only a small band of high quality producers taking advantage of this appellation, among the best would be Graillot, Pochon, Domaine du Colombier and Belle. Jaboulet and the co-operative Cave de Tain dominate much of the land. The reds are lighter than those of Hermitage and softer than those from the vineyards planted accross the river in St Joseph. Here the rich clay limestone soils are less acidic than those of the granite slopes further west, the best wines that result are usually dark, rich, spicy, sturdy wines with reasonably round, pliable textures. The vineyard area spans over 1250ha so quality can be variable, unfortunately. However a good Crozes should drink well after 2-3 years, the best keeping well for 5-7.