Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage 2017
The Domaine Alain Graillot has now been given two étoilés (stars), making it the highest-rated Crozes Domaine in France’s leading wine guide, Revue du Vin de France’s Le Guide des Meilleurs Vins de France. Not that anyone truly needed this validation! It does however confirm the great work being done by Alain’s sons, Maxime and Antoine, who are now their father’s right and left arms. With an average vine age of 40-50 years, the Graillot terroirs are now humming on all cylinders. Gnarled, yet manicured vines (planted mostly between 1968 and 1973) reach up from a sea of smooth, rolled stones, each about the size of a child’s fist. Organically managed, these vines are rooted on the terrasse des Chassis in Pont de I’lsère, where the ‘soil’ was formed by ancient alluvial deposits of sand, gravel, and smooth river stones. Graillot also utilises fruit from a little Crozes parcel on a granitic hillside at Mortiers et les Chaux planted on the terraces at Larnage in 2003.
In regards to the winemaking, the process could not be more simple: the grapes are loaded (crushed yet without destemming) into lined concrete vats and temperatures are brought down to 18°C for a two to five day natural, pre-fermentation maceration. The fermentation relies on natural yeast and, once this is finished, the wine is aged for one year in mostly one- to seven-year-old, 228-litre Burgundian barrels purchased from some of the finest Estates in Burgundy. Since the 2011 vintage Stockinger ovals have begun to play a quiet, yet growing, role. Fusing the muscle of 2015 with the freshness of 2016, the 2017 is an archetypal Graillot Crozes from a great year. Expect a wine brimming over with spicy, smoky, dark cherry and fresh berry fruit and with finer, more sculpted structure than we were expecting from this often robust vintage. It’s packed with sophisticated ripe fruit, yet there’s a coolness of texture and a savoury, sappy edge, leading to a powdery finish that lingers with sustained cherry, black tea and cool, resinous notes. A very classy release that has something for everyone