La Petite Ruche, 1979. Crozes-Hermitage Chapoutier

by Paul Kalemkiarian Sr | June 1982

If you travel North from Marseille and follow the river Rhone, you will pass historic vineyards dating back to the 10th. Century. One of the famous wines from the Central Rhone wine growing region is Hermitage, with a history back to the Crusades. They have been and are superb wines way beyond the budget of this program, but worth studying on your own when you run into them. Lesser, usually good, and often excellent are the wines of Crozes-Hermitage, the region around the latter, with a wider appellation. As you look to the terraced vineyards, you see stone walls separating them. Quite often, publicity conscious growers whitewash their names on these walls. The name Chapoutier appears here and there. Since 1808, the Chapoutier family alone has specialized in producing and marketing the wines of all the major wine growing districts of the Rhone Valley. The painstaking work of several generations of this family has resulted in their famous bottlings being recognised the world over as classic wines from the Rhone. Yet one must select and evaluate. Every harvest creates a new vintage, and every cuvee is a product of an individual effort by the winemaker. This Crozes-Hermitage “La Petite Ruche”, which is a trademark brand of the Chapoutier family, is superb for what it is supposed to be and for the price.

The Syrah (relative to our California Petite Syrah) is the grape used for this wine. As in some other regions in France, a limited quantity of white grapes are permitted to be blended by the Appellation restrictions. Here it is restricted to 15% and may be with Marsanne and Roussane white grapes. The Syrah grape at its intense best displays an aroma of black currants and possibly fresh pepper, with a color approaching blackness. Mouthful, burly, and massive wines can be produced which show lots of tannin and fruit acids; maturing to smooth and rich aged wines if the necessary combination of elements are present.

The wine is brilliant red. The initial aroma is fruity, with a Syrah or “Rhone” character. A fragrance follows and ends the very clean and pure grape nose. The taste is fruity, dry, with again the Syrah varietal character very obvious. The wine has a medium body, somewhat acidy which enhances the fullness of flavor. Fruit is long on the finish.

Cellaring Notes: Will mellow and round out for 3 years. Not for longer ageing.

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