Crozes Hermitage 2009 – Wine Society Exhibition

2013-01-21 19.31.05Miss Mash and I had a bit of a tough one this week and come Friday late January you’re faced with a bit of a dilemma:

1. Tired and not bothered cooking much;
2. DEFINITELY need something nice and comforting for tea;
3. A glass (or three) of wine is self-evident.

Based on what was in the fridge, Fajitas was our solution this particular Friday. Steak and paprika and herbs oven chips also often win but unfortunately, with our current oven it will never be quick. I use the discovery mix which I’m sure can be done better from scratch but for the sake of simplicity I am very happy with the flavours. On a side note, really not a fan of the Old El Paso stuff. What has the foodie community got to say on this?

As you know by now, Miss Mash and I are mainly red winos. We love whites too but we find red wine more satisfying I suppose. Problem is, red wine doesn’t quite go with hot spicy food. However, that is when you follow the “rules” and you care for the best possible culinary experience every single day, every single meal. Care and discipline do matter, of course. But one has to be flexible and tolerant with oneself. We want fajitas and we want red wine and listening to our primal needs and satisfy them is as rewarding as the more thought out flavour matching exercise.

There was one bottle in particular that was tickling my fancy as it’s been in the cellar for some time now: a Crozes-Hermitage 2009 from the Wine Society’s Exhibition range.

The Wine Society is a bit of an unusual set up of a wine merchant. They are technically a not-for-profit organisation. At least that’s what they claim but I haven’t checked their accounts. It’s a member-based Co-operative, where you need to get yourself a lifetime share in the co-operative worth £40 before you can order any wine. The stated aim is to generate profits that can be directly re-invested in sourcing more interesting wines and selling them at preferential prices to members only. I don’t particularly think the prices are that much better than everywhere else, although they do have some good bargains at the lower end of the spectrum. I’ve never been disappointed with their wines however and they do seem to have an interestingly wide, far reaching selection only a handful of vintners could boast about. If I had a bigger wine budget I would order and explore more but I’m currently saving up for a couple of special purchases in a couple of months so watch this space…*wink wink*.

But enough about these guys, let’s have a look at the goods. Crozes-Hermitage is a well known appellation in the Northern Rhone in France, located around the small towns of Tain-L’Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage. The most sought-after and exclusive wines from this region come from the Hermitage (see photo below) and Côte-Rôtie appellations. These prime locations give birth to fantastically complex but age-worthy and expensive wines. Tain L’Hermitage is located on the left bank of the Rhone river but at a specific place where the Rhone turns eastwards for a short distance then continues its course southward towards the Mediterranean…quenching the thirst of many more great vineyards on its way there. This is a very small area, flanked against a steep hill facing due south which combined with a great terroir soil makes for some of the most beautifully complex wines. Crozes-Hermitage is a sub-level appellation, the vineyards are not located in such prime locations. The wines are still very good but less complex and much more affordable.


The prominent hill at the back is Hermitage with its beautifuly curvy vineyards sunbathing throughout the long summer days.
* From wikipedia commons

The primary red wine grape in the Northern Rhone is the enigmatic Syrah which can (sometimes) be blended with up to 15% of the white varietals Marsanne and Roussane. It is quite common however to have a fully varietal wine (100% Syrah) from this region. In France it’s LA Syrah which means it’s a She, much like a mysterious but beautiful woman. So few know how to care for her and bring up the full power of her elegance and make her shine. I love this grape, everytime I drink a Syrah wine it’s a completely different experience, a different story… admittedly not always a good one. I understand the appeal of Shiraz in hot climates such as Australia, as its plump fruity side is generally brought to the fore much like an exotic and plantureuse bimbo. But in the Rhone, minerality is just as important and wines can have a certain “earthiness” to them. It’s wilder, harder to tame.

Having said that, the Crozes Hermitage Exhibition 2009 did not quite deliver on the promise of a magic trip to southern France wilderness. But then again it’s £9.95 and it’s a blend from several grape producers presumably selected for the quality of their fruit i.e it is not a terroir wine and nor is it trying to be. So what is it about? Well all the main characteristics of Syrah were there: deep colour, black fruit flavours (I think I picked up on cherry and currant), black pepper finish. It was nice and smooth with soft tannins and a fresh, fruity acidity to keep it lively. It disappeared with a hint of greenness. It’s a very drinkable wine and you can sample the power of 2009 from it.

So…how did it fair with the Fajitas? Well, it ended up working quite nicely and unexpectedly so. On one side, the discovery spice mix was the mild one…which I only realised when we were both disappointed with the lack of heat. On the other side, the wine was not as tannic and earthy as I expected, probably because that is what the wine “blender” was looking for, a fruit driven and gluggable Northern Rhone wine. So all in all a lot less of a fight between the two. #WIN

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