M. Chapoutier Crozes Hermitage La Petite Ruche Blanc 2011
The vineyards of Crozes-Hermitage surround the great Hermitage Hill. Sometimes called a "down-sized Hermitage" La Petite Ruche" is all freshness and easy enjoyment from younger vines.
The history of the Chapoutier family stretches back to the early nineteenth century when current owner Michel Chapoutier’s great-, great-, great-grandfather Marius purchased an estate and some vineyards in the now famous village of Tain l’Hermitage in the Northern Rhône Valley. Marius Chapoutier made history in the region when he became the first grape grower there to vinify his own fruit. Marius had tasted wines other winemakers produced using his fruit and he realized that something was lost in translation, so to speak. He knew that he owned some of the best growing sites in the appellation and he believed — rightly — that the grapes grown in his vineyards could produce long-lived world-class wines. In a move unusual at the time, he decided that he should make the wine himself. Not only did the quality of the wines increase greatly, but this move provided the capital to expand the Chapoutiers’ already legendary estate.
A visionary and pioneer in biodynamic winemaking, his restless energy and unconditional commitment to quality have produced tremendous success, with the most 90+ point ratings of all Rhône producers and 16 "100 point" rated wines.
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.
One of the star whites of the Rhône Valley and ubiquitous throughout southern France, historically vignerons have favored Marsanne for its hardy and productive vines but it is not merely a workhorse variety. It actually produces some of the finest and most age-worthy whites available in the world today. Marsanne can make a fruity and delicious single varietal wine as well as a serious, full-bodied version with amazing aging potential. Its best examples come from the northern Rhone appellations of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and St.-Joseph, where it is also blended with Roussanne. Throughout the south of France, Marsanne is often found in blends with Viognier, Rolle and even Chardonnay.
In the Glass
Marsanne has a great deal of depth and texture. Common characteristics include sweet pear, white peach, roasted nuts, white flowers and spice. When aged well it can have an attractive, silky and somewhat oily texture.
Lobster, Alaskan King Crab, grilled shrimp, any pork, chicken or veal will be delicious with Marsanne or Marsanne blends. You can also try it with cream sauces and spicy dishes!
Some of the oldest Marsanne vines in the entire world exist not in France but in Australia, in the Victoria region (in southeast Australia where the climate is relatively cool). Settlers called the grape “white Hermitage” and planted it in the mid to late 1800s.