The sizeable Cave de Tain l'Hermitage co-operative winery dominates the 'big-boy' field in the northern Rhône Valley, although that's not necessarily a bad thing at all when you taste right across their varied range (or even just drink a glass or two of one of them, of course); including a rare back-cellar of some excellent older vintages too (e.g. 1990 red noted at bottom of page), if you're lucky enough to get the chance. I wouldn't be the first or last one to say that they almost always make very reliable Crozes-Hermitage red, which is nicely representative of pure tasty fruity spicy Syrah (all their reds are 100% sexy Syrah) and widely imported under many own-labels into many countries (see web link below photo for more info). Or white Crozes for that matter: as you'll see here, Cave de Tain's white wines, and northern Rhône whites in general other than that trophy-hunter wine Condrieu perhaps (and I can see why), are sometimes overlooked but definitely worth a look (although not always all of them...)
|Steep Syrah steps from www.cavedetain.com|
A few quick facts & figures might help set the scene here, although I'm not going to rehash everything on their site. The co-op growers' total wine-lands come to over 1000 ha (about 2500 acres; told you they were 'big'), and they do own vineyards in certain top sites especially the Hermitage, Cornas and Saint Joseph cru appellations. These growers are backed up by the usual, and essential, modern winery operation with a solid team of winemakers, marketeers, sales people etc. Something worth pointing out in particular is Cave de Tain's recently restored estate and property, Le Fief de Gambert de Loche, found among precious Hermitage hillside vine-land. This has become a kind of wine tourism centre focusing on the area's history and the Syrah variety, and regular tutored tasting events can be booked and are held in situ. If you're planning on staying around here, two co-op grower families have holiday accommodation available: again check out the CdT site.
I sampled these wines with the export manager on their UK importer's stand, Boutinot Wines, at the London International Wine Fair last year (yet more forgotten-about notes, still worth resurrecting though). Prices are in euros per bottle for cases of six bought on-line, to give you an idea.
White - all 100% Marsanne
2011 Marsanne - attractive yeast-lees notes with white peach fruit, honeyed and creamy too vs crisp mouth-feel with the odd aniseed flavour. Nice style and good value. €3.50
2010 Crozes-Hermitage - similar characters to above although quite closed up when I tried it, probably more intense yet seems to fall a little flat in the end? €7.90
2003 Hermitage - rich colour and oxidized nutty nose, toasted hazelnut notes, rounded and buttery vs mineral tones, surprisingly complex and alive still underneath all those lovely developed flavours (03 was a very hot vintage). About €25?
2008 Hermitage Au Coeur des Siecles (selected from two 100 year-old vineyards) - nutty maturing nose/palate vs fresh mouth-feel underneath, buttery and toasty vs crisp mineral and classy. Serious foodie. €30
2010 Syrah - nice simple aromatic peppery style, light easy and tasty. €3.50
2009 St-Joseph - aromatic perfumed Syrah with spicy black cherry, firm vs ripe mouth-feel, nice balance and style with enticing lingering minty fruit. About €10.
2010 Crozes-Hermitage - floral spicy typical young Syrah nose, firm and tangy vs delicious simple fruit. €7.90
2009 Les Hauts de Fief Crozes-Hermitage (plot selection) - a bit heavy on the pencil-shaving / coconut oak, although has lively fruit too; solid vs maturing tones, concentrated but a touch samey on the winemaking front. €11.80
2007 Cornas Arenes Sauvages - smoky maturing meaty nose with peppery tones, still structured vs nicely maturing, has power weight and grip vs lovely fruit. Great stuff. €22
2009 Hermitage - touches of oak on the nose, quite closed up and firm still vs lots of ripe dark fruit lurking in there; punchy on its tight taut finish, not expressing itself so well at the moment but has great potential. About €25.
1990 Hermitage - a classic vintage in the Rhone, north and south from memory. Complex leather and tobacco notes, meaty vs dried dark 'sweet' fruit, still has plenty of substance vs developing savoury fruit; firm vs rounded mouth-feel on its long tasty classy finish. Wow. Yum.
More Crozes et al on this blog:
Wine touring feature here (2007 road-trip).
Southern French reds @ Marks & Spencer's (Nov 2011).
Big French co-ops part 2 to follow soon on www.winewriting.com: