Domaine Belle Crozes-Hermitage Les Pierrelles 2016
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Domaine Belle has an interesting history. In the 1600’s, vines were grown in vineyards around the Chateau de Larnage and all the land and produce belonged to the Lord of Larnage. Each villager had to give three days unpaid labor (one for pruning, one for ploughing and another for the grape harvest). In 1769, at a village assembly called by Claude François Mure, the new Lord of Larnage, each family was granted a small parcel of land with vines for their personal use. From these feudal times the family holding gradually expanded, until in the 1930s it consisted of several neighboring plots whose grapes were made into wine and sold locally.
A great change took place when Louis Belle (Philippe’s grandfather) took over the property. In fact, while Louis Belle loved growing vines, he didn’t much like making the wine and in 1933 he became a founder member of the Tain l’Hermitage wine-making cooperative. This great winegrower also acquired some superb parcels of land in the communes of Larnage and Tain l’Hermitage. When Louis handed the land on to his son Albert in the 1970s, the holding consisted of 4ha spread over two communes (Larnage and Tain).
Passionate about vines and wine, Albert Belle started to make wine for himself and his friends. In 1990, under the impetus provided by Albert’s son Philippe, who had recently returned from studying œnology, winemaking moved to the forefront with the creation of Domaine Belle. Together Albert and Philippe built a modern, functional winery, giving them the means to produce great wines which respect the terroir of the individual appellations. Since Albert’s retirement in 2003, Phillipe has continued alone; passionate about his work, committed to protecting his terroirs and about making the wines from Larnage known around the world. The Domaine has always been a family holding, passed on from generation to generation, promoting the special Larnage terroir with its white clays, often called ‘Les Terres Blanches’.
Today, Domaine Belle stretches over six communes (Larnage, Crozes-Hermitage, Tain l’Hermitage, Pont de l’Isère, Mercurol and Tournon), three appellations (Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, Saint Joseph) and covers an area of 25ha of vines, to which you must add apricot orchards and the vine nursery managed by Philippe’s brother, Jean-Claude. And the story is set to continue with Philippe’s son Guillaume’s interest in winemaking and his future role in the Domaine.
Crozes-Hermitage is Northern Rhone’s largest appellation, surrounding the steep granite faces of Hermitage to its north and south. Here the rolling vineyards are less extreme and its soils, rich in clay-limestone and alluvial matter, produce Syrahs that range from fruity and charming to lush and seductive. The Syrahs of Crozes-Hermitage have more mass than those from St. Joseph but are less intense than those from Hermitage. While many are intended for early consumption, some of the best Syrahs from Crozes-Hermitage will age beautifully for 5-10 years.
Up to 15% of white grapes may theoretically be added to red Crozes at the time of fermentation but whether this is done or not depends on the decision of the winemaker. The best Crozes-Hermitage Syrahs will be fleshy with black fruit (currant, blackberry and black cherry) and bay leaf qualities, notes of tar and stone, and a well-concentrated finish of smooth tannins.
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.”