Already bottled, the 2019 Crozes Hermitage Mule Blanche (Domaine) harkens back toward the quality of the superb 2017, with gentle nutty complexities interwoven with crushed stone, spice, melon and pear. Medium to full-bodied, this 50-50 blend of Marsanne and Roussanne from Les Chassis displays beautiful harmony and roundness while remaining long and crisp on the finish.
Drink 2021 - 2028
Joe Czerwinski, Wine Advocate (May 2021)
A blend of equal parts Marsanne and Roussanne, the 2019 Crozes-Hermitage Mule Blanche has a rounded, medium-bodied, nicely textured style that carries plenty of pear, citrus blossom, and sappy herbs notes as well as a touch of salty minerality. A fleshy, undeniably delicious, balanced white, it's ideal for drinking over the coming 4-5 years, if not longer. It would be a great introduction to the white wines of this appellation.
Drink 2020 - 2026
Jeb Dunnuck, jebdunnuck.com (Nov 2020)
About this WINE
Paul Jaboulet Aîné are amongst the Rhône Valley’s most iconic producers. Hermitage ‘La Chapelle’ being their most famous wine – arguably the most famous of all Hermitage. Named after the small hermit's Chapel built in 1235 on the Hermitage hill, La Chapelle is often considered equal in complexity and age-worthiness to the Bordeaux First Growths. Founded in 1834 by Antoine Jaboulet (Paul was one of his sons), it was Paul’s son, Louis, and grandson, Gérard, who can be heralded among the great ambassadors for the both the region and the négociant. However, upon Gérard’s untimely death in 1997, the business began to struggle. Finally, they sold it to the Frey family in 2005, announcing a new era.
Under them, the Maison thrived once more. Jacques and Nicolas Frey are involved in the day-to-day running of the Maison Jaboulet, while Caroline Frey has been at the helm of the winemaking team since ’06. She immediately set to work converting the estate to sustainable farming. They were certified organic in ’16, and also farm biodynamically.
They own 120 hectares vines over the Northern Rhône and make use of bought grapes to complete their range, now covering 26 appellations. They continue to innovate, bringing new wines into the range and introducing new techniques, including concrete eggs to replace some use of wood.
Their ’20s have all the hallmarks of the vintage, showing power and concentration, alongside freshness and restraint. There is an elegance and purity to the wines that defines Caroline’s continued emphasis on terroir and fruit quality.
Crôzes-Hermitage is the largest AC in the Northern Rhône, producing 10 times the volume of Hermitage and over half of the Northern Rhône’s total production. The appellation was created in 1937 with the single commune of Crozes, which is situated northeast of the hill of Hermitage. Wines are now produced from 11 different communes.Its vineyards surround the hill of Hermitage on equally hilly terrain where richer soils produce wines that are softer and fruitier, with a more forward style. The Syrah variety is used, but legally Marsanne and Roussanne can be added to the blend (up to 15 percent). In the north, the commune of Gervans is similar to Les Bessards in Hermitage, with granite soil producing tannic reds that need time to evolve.
While in Larnage, in the south, the heavy clay soils give the wine breadth and depth (albeit they can sometimes be flabby), the soils to the east of river on higher ground comprise stony, sandy and clay limestone, making them ideal for the production of white wines.
The best reds are produced on the plateaus of Les Chassis and Les Sept Chenin, which straddles the infamous N7 road to the south of Tain. Here the land is covered with cailloux roulés, which resemble the small pudding stones fond in Châteauneuf.
The wines can vary hugely in quality and style, and the majority of the reds tend to be fairly light. Many of the wines are made by a variation of the macération carbonique technique, bottled no later than one year after the vinification. The best producers, however, use traditional fermentation techniques.
There are small amounts of white wine made from Marsanne and Roussanne, accounting for approximately 10 percent of the appellation. The finest whites are produced from around Mercurol.
Recommended producers: Paul Jaboulet, Chapoutier, Colombier, Ferraton
Best vintages: 2006, 2005, 2004, 1999, 1995, 1990, 1989, 1988,
Marsanne is the predominant white grape variety grown in the Northern Rhône where it is used to produce white St. Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage, and Hermitage. It is a tricky grape to cultivate, being susceptible to diseases and being particularly sensitive to extreme climatic changes - if growing conditions are too cool, then it fails to ripen fully and produces thin, insipid wines, while, if too hot, the resultant wines are blowsy, overblown and out of balance.
In the Northern Rhône it tends to be blended with around 15% Rousanne and produces richly aromatic, nutty wines which age marvellously - the best examples are from Hermitage and particularly from Chapoutier. Increasingly it is being grown in the Southern Rhône and Languedoc Roussillon where it is bottled as a single varietal or blended with Roussanne, Viognier, and sometimes Chardonnay. It is also grown very successfully in Victoria in Australia where some of the world`s oldest Marsanne vines are to be found.