Yesterday I tasted two wines from venerable Rhône Valley producer M. Chapoutier: Crozes-Hermitage Petite Ruche rouge and blanc, both from 2007 vintage. Crozes-Hermitage is the neighborhood/family harlot of the northern Rhône: it is the region's largest appellation, yielding an ocean of wine, most of it relatively easy to get into. Crozes-Hermitage doesn't have the prime real estate of its famous neighbors, as it is situated below and around the hillside that gives us unhyphenated Hermitage, but there are enough producers now who make their wine seriously that there is ample evidence that Syrah from Crozes-Hermitage can be beautiful indeed, and incredibly useful with food.
About 10% of Crozes-Hermitages made each year is white--most of it from Marsanne. The reds are Syrah (and can contain up to 15% white wine, though this is generally not done), and tend to be more approachable than those of Hermitage. Excellent vintages can mature beautifully over a decade or more (especially in the case of the reds), but usually they are best drunk within the first seven years of the vintage.
And for those who care....Tasting Notes:
M. Chapoutier 2007 Crozes-Hermitage Petite Ruche White
100% Marsanne. Aroma of saffron, mint, a slight smokiness, blanched almonds, quartz. Vivid fleshiness and acidity that suggests Roussanne as a minority partner, but it is without Roussanne's unique mineral expression. Brothy and pear- and plum-toned, long, pure finish where the saffron notion returns.
Food Pairings: Lobster (steamed, not too buttery), Pork, chicken, curry (but milder), risotto (sweeter), smoked trout
M. Chapoutier 2007 Crozes-Hermitage Petite RucheRed
100% Syrah. Stiff, tannin influenced aroma of black raspberries and allspice. Flavors of black raspberry a streak of tannin that doesn't release immediately, but with air it opens up nicely with excellent length, spice, and even a touch of meatiness. Finish has an attractive chalk texture, which will soften with some time, which this wine could use...at least five years, or a decanter and a few hours.
Food Pairings: Cheese (hard or aged), Eggplant, Osso Bucco, Venison, ratatouille, smoked meats.
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