The Northern Rhone:
The famous vineyards at the back of the town of Tain
Leaving Lyon on the N7, we headed south along the
banks of the brooding Rhone. For the wine lover, the excitement at being close to some of
the most famous vineyards in France is tempered by the rather unscenic factories and
cement works lining the banks, belching their pollution. But, as you get further from the
city, the vineyard-covered hills begin to appear and it all gets rather scenic. The town
of Tain l'Hermitage, though, is rather unprepossessing and a bit of a dissapointment. But
following the signs for Jaboulet, Chapoutier and Cave Tain l'Hermitage, we took a left
turn down one of the side roads from the rather drab main street, and in a couple of
blocks were faced with the steep-sloped vineyards of Hermitage.
Growers queuing up to unload their grapes at Cave Tain
Because it was Sunday, we only stopped off at the
tasting rooms of Cave Tain l'Hermitage. A big, modern, visitor-friendly tasting room is
housed in a rather ugly building backing onto the winery. The staff were eager to help and
quick to pour, and I was pleasantly surprised by the high quality and fair prices of the
1996 Crozes-Hermitages (rouge) 34ff Deep red with a peppery
nose. Berry fruit and good acid. Good.
1996 St Joseph (rouge) 46ff Essence of Syrah, with smoky bacon fat and blackberry
aromas coupled with a slight earthiness. Good concentration too. **
1996 Crozes-Hermitage (blanc) 34ff Pleasant nose of flowers, and the marsanne
element often described as 'glue'. Good acidity. OK.
1995 St Peray (blanc) 34ff More rounded nose. Fresh, lemony fruit and bright
acidity. Expressive and individual. Very good. **
1994 Cornas 64ff Fairly tannic and hard, but there's some great Syrah waiting to
come out with a few years' development. Good. *
(Just for the record, I bought some of the Cornas, St Peray and the
Cave de Tain l'Hermitage 22 Route
de Larnge, BP3, 26600 Tain l'Hermitage, tel 04 75 08 20 87
On to the Southern
Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape...