Louis Barruol is one of the rare experts of both northern and southern Rhône terroirs. Having originally made a name for himself through his grand Gigondas cuvée, he approached Kermit fifteen years ago to collaborate on a handful of appellations to the north, specifically in Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage, and—perhaps most ambitiously—Crozes-Hermitage. This AOC has long lived in the shadow of its more illustrious neighbor due to the fact that, decades ago, the French wine authorities expanded Crozes-Hermitage, adding large swaths of flat, undistinguished vineyard sites to the appellation, thereby ruining the reputation of the historic hillside terroir. Believing in the enduring possibilities of the great, Louis and Kermit identified some of the most promising parcels among the appellation’s 1,200 hectares. They settled on vineyards north of Hermitage and just east of the Rhône River near the commune of Gervans, planted on granite hills that give the wine both strength and finesse. For Louis, what stands out about the 2018 Tiercerolles—a blend of eight lieux-dits—is the savory sensation in the glass, and a freshness in a region where the grapes aren’t generally endowed with much acidity. The result is a truly standout Crozes: this noble, versatile, and age-worthy northern Rhône red will serve you well year-round. Try steak au poivre or sautéed wild mushrooms for a perfect pairing.
On the wines of the northern Rhône, Kermit wrote in Adventures on the Wine Route, “The best combine a reminder of the sunny Mediterranean with the more self-conscious, intellectual appeal of the great Burgundies farther north, which is not a bad combination.” Like the wines of Provence, Burgundy, and Beaujolais, Kermit was introduced to this region by Richard Olney, an American ex-pat and friend of Alice Waters.
Though technically part of the same region as the southern Rhône and connected by the Rhône River, much differentiates the north from the south. The climate is continental and in general cooler than that Mediterranean climate of the south. The appellations are significantly smaller: Cornas has less than 300 acres planted to vine and Hermitage around 345. The area planted is minute when compared to Gigondas (3,000+ acres) and Châteauneuf-du-Pape (nearly 8,000 acres). Many of the great wines come from steep hillside vines—terraced during Roman times. It was clear to the Romans that great wine could be made here and DNA evidence now shows that Syrah is in fact indigenous to the Rhône.
The terroir is predominantly granite and lastly, blends of the wines are mostly single grape varieties. Only four grape varieties are permitted in AOC blends: Syrah, Viogner, Marsanne, and Roussanne (as compared to the 19 permitted varieties allowed in Châteauneuf). The red wines are nearly all Syrah and Condrieu and Château Grillet must be 100% Viogner. The whites of Hermitage, Saint Joseph, Saint Péray, and Crozes-Hermitages may only be blends of Marsanne and Roussanne.
Drinking distilled spirits, beer, coolers, wine and other alcoholic beverages may increase cancer risk, and, during pregnancy, can cause birth defects. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov/alcohol
Many food and beverage cans have linings containing bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical known to cause harm to the female reproductive system. Jar lids and bottle caps may also contain BPA. You can be exposed to BPA when you consume foods or beverages packaged in these containers. For more information, go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov/bpa