It comes as no surprise to me that, as a lad that’s found himself in the Hunter Valley over the last two years, I have begun to develop a natural affinity towards Syrah/Shiraz in all it’s forms.
More recently, that’s taken my tastebuds to France and the Northern Rhône.
I have a natural disposition towards Saint Joseph; Cornas always makes me smile and some of my favourite wines come form Côte-Rôtie. Until recently, I’ve really not had much experience with Crozes-Hermitage.
Hermitage itself is very well known, of course, and for good reason. It is, in many respects, the spiritual home of Syrah and, in some accounts of Australian viticultural history, the hill of Hermitage was the source for the original Syrah cuttings that James Busby brought to the young colony, planted at Kirkton, for it to be later renamed and spread throughout Australia as Shiraz.
Crozes-Hermitage is somewhat different. The most important of the Northern Rhône appellation if speaking only in terms of volumes, the region surrounds the hill of Hermitage on the right bank of the River Rhône. Price, quality and style can vary considerably depending on vineyard location and the red wines are made of Syrah, perhaps with up to 15% of Marsanne or Roussanne.
Cuilleron is one of the more familiar (more important?) names of the Northern Rhône and produces wines of generally very high quality. Some of my favourite Northern Rhône wines are produced by Yves.
Laya is a 100% Syrah from a single vineyard located on the Chassis plain. The grapes are destemmed, fermented and the wine then spends 18 months in used barrels.
Deep ruby with some purple tinges, and quite the intoxicating nose. Almost leaps out of the glass, offering red and purple fruits, blueberries, cloves and sweet spice. Some dried herbs – perhaps thyme and rosemary leading into the faintest touch of lavender and florals.
Medium bodied palate with medium alcohol to match and grippy, yet ripe, tannins. Flavours are all fruit at this point – blackcurrant, blueberry, some slight smoke then more purple fruits as it flows through the mouth. Good acidity forms the backbone with medium length that slightly stutters at the finish the only distraction.
I like this, and whilst it’s not an example of the best of the Northern Rhône (much less, the best of Syrah), it’s still a very enjoyable drop. People may well baulk at the concept of a drinkable, dare I say smashable, Syrah at $50-ish a bottle, but this still ticks all of my boxes.