On 15th June 2019 a severe hailstorm on the Chassis plateau in the southern sector of Crozes-Hermitage, decimated the ripening fruit. It only lasted 20 minutes but hailstones the size of golf balls wiped out half the potential harvest. On the positive side, the grapes that were picked 3 months later were in excellent condition so qualitatively 2019 should be another fine vintage despite heavily depleted yields.
Alain Graillot first produced a white wine in his inaugural 1985 vintage but was not pleased with the outcome and sent it off for distillation. Over the ensuing decades investment in sophisticated cellar hardware, greater vine age, fastidious vinification and the input of his sons have seen a seismic improvement in quality. Made from a blend of 80% Marsanne and 20% Roussanne that are raised in vat and 600-litre demi-muid barrels before being bottled under-screw cap in the spring, it now enjoys an enthusiastic international following. Redolent of white peaches and apricots with a smooth texture and refreshing salinity, it drinks well from release on its youthful fruit.
The Graillots' estate bottling of red Crozes-Hermitage is made from whole-bunch Syrah that is fermented in vat and then raised in oak barrels of varying ages for 12 months before blending and bottling. Typically, it has a bouquet of black fruit and tapenade and a briary dark berry palate with peppery undertones, fine-grained tannins and fresh acidity. It drinks well from release and can cellar well for a decade in good vintages. When the correct condition prevail a patron's cuvée, called 'La Guiraude', is also produced. This is essentially a barrel selection but usually includes fruit from a hillside plot in Larnage that was planted in 2003. It has the domaine's signature purity of fruit and freshness but is a denser and more complex wine that comes into its own with 3-5 years bottle age.
Alain's eldest son Maxime and business partner Thomas Schmittel make terrific red Crozes-Hermitage from their neighbouring Domaine des Lises vine holdings and parcels of purchased fruit. Their 'Equinoxe' négociant bottling has a short vinification and is intended for early drinking. Redolent of crushed berries and cherries with a wealth juicy fruit, it drinks well lightly-chilled and is perfect for barbecues and picnics. Their estate bottling is made from de-stemmed fruit and has alluring autumnal fruit scents and flavours and a sleek, sensuous finish.