This article was originally published in November 2019.
Hermitage is the supreme expression of the Syrah grape, but little recognised – making it a bargain among the Rhônes.
There’s a regular tale of customer woe, familiar to all wine merchants, that goes something along the lines of: “I used to drink the reds of (insert name of posh Bordeaux château/premier cru burgundy here), yet I can now no longer afford them.” The inference being that all vinous enjoyment had come to an end, with the sufferer condemned to a life of Zinfandel Blush from a box, with the odd glass of Madagascan Merlot on high days and holy days.
True, there is a worldwide market that chases certain labels, with an absurd determination to pay whatever it takes. The traditional drinker of top-class Pauillac or Chambolle-Musigny has been elbowed aside; it’s dog eat dog in that marketplace. But all is not lost. When offered the chance to respond to said lament, I have consistently offered the following option: Rhône.
Even the relatively humble appellation of Côte du Rhône can deliver an excellent bottle. And as one trades up through the likes of Vacqueyras, Gigondas, and Crozes-Hermitage, there is outstanding drinking available in the £10 to £20 range (go to Burgundy, and £20 barely grabs you a generic Bourgogne Rouge these days). At the higher end, Châteauneuf-du-Pape has really only gone up in price by the rate of inflation, while Côte-Rôtie’s sublime, perfumed, textures seduce everywhere.