Red Crozes can be really, really good.
From £17 (six-bottle minimum order), 28 Swiss francs, €29.38, 319.90 Norwegian krone, $41.98, 3,810 roubles, SG$104, 108,000 South Korean won
We launched our glassware in New York last week at a party on the twenty-first floor of a building with great views of the sun setting over the Hudson and well-heeled execs being helicoptered back home to New Jersey.
Because we wanted to show how versatile the wine glass is, we supplemented the Three Graces 2014 kindly donated by Chapel Down to fly the English flag with a range of wines from Skurnik Wines, who are distributing the glassware in the US. I wasn’t able to taste everything but was hugely impressed by my taste of the contents of a magnum of Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Dom de Thalabert 2012 Crozes-Hermitage.
Admittedly, it had the advantage of being in magnum but it seemed beautifully ready to drink and so much richer and denser than many red Crozes, which in some vintages can seem a little scrawny. You can see our reasonably positive assessment of the 2012 vintage in the northern Rhône in our free Learn section.
I have a particularly soft spot for Domaine de Thalabert, it having over-performed in so many vintages in the mid to late twentieth century – not least the 1990 that was still glorious when I tasted it in 2012 as described here.
It was the first vineyard bought by the eponymous founder of the house, way back in 1834, and is the oldest vineyard in Crozes-Hermitage. Today some of the Syrah vines in an area that totals around 40 ha (100 acres) are as old as 80, and average yields, on the stony terraces that constitute this vineyard, are as low as 25 hl/ha.
See this 2012 appreciation of Louis Jaboulet, grandson of the founder. And this report of the 2005 sale of the company to the Swiss family Frey. Today Caroline Frey is in charge of winemaking and has instituted biodynamic farming methods, as well as ageing in some new French oak – in this case 20%.
I often feel that there’s a gap in the wines grown around Tain l’Hermitage. Hermitage itself is so concentrated and long-lived that it can be a bit expensive and uncompromising. But many a red Crozes, while being generally well-priced, can be too light and unsatisfying (although I was particularly impressed by the 2015s).
Domaine de Thalabert can be one of the best, and I’ve enjoyed many a Crozes from Yann Chave (sold in the UK by Stone, Vine & Sun). Dard & Ribo are the naturalistas of the appellation, and of course the grandfather of the modern era is Alain Graillot, now succeeded by his son Maxime.
By coincidence, the night before our party, at Racines restaurant, someone shared a taste from a bottle of Alain Graillot 1993 Crozes-Hermitage that was still going strong. This is an appellation that can be well worth ageing when the combination of vintage and producer is auspicious. As it is in the case of today’s wine of the week, which has still got many years of life in it. See this tasting note; I gave the wine 17 out of 20, for what it's worth.
According to John Livingstone-Learmonth’s excellent Wines of the Northern Rhône (University of California Press 2005), more than 200,000 bottles of Thalabert are, or at least were then, produced each year, which means that it’s relatively easy to find. Wine-Searcher lists stockists in the UK, US, France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Luxembourg, Czechia, Russia, Singapore and South Korea. On some markets it is usefully available in half bottles (eg from the Wine Society in the UK).