The Northern Rhone:
Tain l'Hermitage

The famous vineyards at the back of the town of Tain L'Hermitage

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 L'Hermitage

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 wines.

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 St Joseph.)

Cave de Tain l'Hermitage 22 Route de Larnge, BP3, 26600 Tain l'Hermitage, tel 04 75 08 20 87

{short description of image}

On to the Southern Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape...