Domaine Aleofane Crozes-Hermitage 2010
Dense and concentrated. Even with this concentration of fruit, she was able to maintain a beautiful balance in the wine. The Crozes is deep, dark, purple in the glass, with a rich black cherry and blackberry nose. In the mouth the intense black fruit flavors mingle with hints of black pepper, and soft ripe tannins. While this is a wine that could be cellared for several years, the rich fruit flavors also make it enjoyable now.
Natacha Chave knew she would make wine like her parents. At the beginning of the year 2000, her brother Yann Chave took over their father’s domaine (Bernard Chave), a renowned vineyard created in 1970 on the Crozes-Hermitage and Hermitage appellations. Natacha was ready to get into the family business. She enrolled at the Suze la Rousse wine university in 2003, then passed a Farming Professional Capacity (CPA), and then did her work experience with various winegrowers to complete her training. In 2004, she bought 1.5ha of vines in the Saint Joseph appellation at Tournon-sur-Rhône. In 2007, she bought 40 years old vines on a Crozes-Hermitage appellation in the Chassis plain (Beaumont-Monteux village) and planted a few vines reaching 5ha extending her domaine to 6.5ha.
The name of the domaine is Aléofane, in reference with the imaginary island from a book by author, John Macmillan Brown. According to Natacha Chave, “Our immediate will is the respect of nature, soils, grapes and is to be as little as interventionist as possible both in grape growing and in winemaking process.” Grass covering between rows, total work of the soil according to the years to induce or not competition with the vine. And she goes on with vinification: indigenous yeasts and no enzyme. No filtration, no fining and few sulphites as possible. Natacha also uses biodynamic preparations that favor the stimulation of the plant natural immunity and its balance. — Natacha’s approach is very time consuming, but the payoff is well worth it.
One of the smallest and most important Syrah regions of northern Rhone, Hermitage is practically one single south-facing slope of crushed granite, thinly covered with varied, yet well-charted soil types. Many climats (well identified parcels) exist within Hermitage and while some smaller producers make single climat Syrahs, some larger ones blend to make one balanced expression of the appellation.
Though the AC regulations allow the addition of up to 15% white grapes to a red Hermitage, in practice it is usually made from Syrah alone. Winemaking is pretty traditional—or you might say historic—with hot fermentations and aging in older barrels of various sizes. The best wines, characterized by deep, dense and sexy flavors of black fruit, cocoa, licorice and tobacco, have massive textures and a solid 10-20 years aging potential.
The region of Hermitage is totally enclosed; the only place it could go really is to literally fall down its own hill into the city of Tain or the Rhone River. Soil erosion is a problem and terraces exist alongside the hill in order to keep the earth in place. Crozes-Hermitage encloses the region entirely to its north and south.
While Hermitage seems synonymous with some of the best Syrah on the planet, actually about one third of the wine produced here comes from white grapes. The full, lush and robust Marsanne or the less common, but almost more charming, Roussanne create wonderful whites in which the best have great potential for aging, like the reds.
Marked by an unmistakable deep purple hue and savory aromatics, Syrah makes an intense, powerful and often age-worthy red. Native to the Northern Rhône, Syrah achieves its maximum potential in the steep village of Hermitage and plays an important component in the Red Rhône Blends of the south, adding color and structure to Grenache and Mourvèdre. Syrah is the most widely planted grape of Australia and is important in California and Washington. Sommelier Secret—Such a synergy these three create together, the Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre trio often takes on the shorthand term, “GSM.”