Crozes-Hermitage wine region
Crozes-Hermitage is the largest wine-growing region in the northern part of the French Rhône Valley. The area of the appellation includes eleven communes of the department of Drôme in the surroundings of the famous vineyard Hermitage on the left bank of the Rhone. The centre is formed by the commune of the same name and the town of Tain l’Hermitage
In 2005, 62,871 hl of wine were produced on 1,443 ha of cultivated land, of which about 92 % was red wine.
Soil and climate
In the northern part of the area, the geological continuation of the Hermitage hill, the subsoil of the vineyards consists of granite that weathers into fine clay. In order to secure the thin soil layers from slipping, brick terraces were built there. The larger, southern part of the appellation is made up of glacial deposits of gravel and boulders mixed with red clay. Their highest parts are covered with loess, they are particularly suitable for white wine.
The northern Rhône valley has a mixture of continental and Mediterranean climate. The latter ensures good sunshine and high average temperatures in the valleys, especially south of Tain l’Hermitage. The cool and dry north wind prevails, warm south winds are rarer and then bring mostly rain. Precipitation ranges between 700 and 800 mm per year. Summers are warm and dry. Too little precipitation in summer on the gravel terrace in the south is a problem.
Sites and wines
By far the largest part of the production is red wine, for which Syrah is the only grape variety permitted. An addition of up to 15 % white wine is allowed. The basic yield is 45 hl/ha
Due to the different soils, the growing area is anything but homogeneous. The north of the area produces red wines with a stronger structure and a longer shelf life. On the terrace of the Chassis in the south of the area, fruitier wines are produced, which develop correspondingly faster in the cellar. The low average age of the vines there also plays a role. Barrique ageing is the exception for Crozes-Hermitage.
White wine accounts for about 8% of production. The Marsanne and Roussanne grape varieties are permitted, with the former dominating due to its more reliable yield. The best white wines are produced in the Mercurol sector. There are two styles of white winemaking. Traditional vinification with malolactic fermentation produces full-bodied, spicy and storable wines with nutty and floral notes. The more modern style puts more emphasis on freshness and fruitiness, here citrus aromas dominate.
There are over 40 independent winegrowers and two cooperatives (Cave de Tain, Cave des Clairmonts). In addition, the large trading houses of the Rhône Valley play an important role.
On 3 March 1937, the Crozes-Hermitage appellation was created by decree for the sites adjoining the Hermitage to the north. On July 1, 1952, it was extended to eleven communes of the Tain l’Hermitage canton. This upgrading led to an expansion of vineyards, especially on the Chassis terrace, where fruit growing used to dominate. The area under vines thus increased from 1,029 ha at the beginning of the nineties to 1,443 ha in 2005.
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- Jancis Robinson: The Oxford Wine Encyclopedia. Gräfe und Unzer Verlag, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-7742-0914-6.
- Pierre Galet: Cépages et Vignobles de France. Published by Lavoisier, Paris 2004, ISBN 2-7430-0585-8.
- Benoît France: Grand Atlas des Vignobles de France. Éditions SOLAR, Paris 2002, ISBN 2-263-03242-8.