Etienne crafts very elegant and surprisingly long-lived Crozes that should be typical of the appellation. Unfortunately, there are many growers with extensive plantings on the plains who do not possess such a burning desire for quality and therefore often produce very lacklustre, soupy wines. Etienne vinifies plot by plot from hillside sites, the best of which are separated for some ageing in oak barriques; these are the red and white Château Curson wines. The white is a Marsanne/Roussanne blend full of sophisticated almond, dairy and stone fruit fl avours that is at its best for two to three years. Our last trip out there, however, revealed just how gracefully the red can age. We tasted a charming 1989 that was ‘as fresh as a daisy’, boasting aromas of violet and luscious flavours of sweet blackcurrant.
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.