ENTERED RECENTLY: a full review of 2010 GIGONDAS reds features under the 2010 SOUTHERN RHÔNE tab; click on the sub tab THE LEADING WINES. 2010 holds many more 4 to 6 star wines than either 2009 or 2007; nearly 110 wines are 3 stars or higher. Under VISAN, see a domaine that I regard as great value, DOMAINE DE COSTE CHAUDE. The wines at this Swiss-owned domaine have gained in elegance recently. A good quality estate under CÔTES DU RHÔNE is PASCAL CHALON, a fourth generation grower with vineyards mainly at Tulette, plus Visan.
LATE-JULY 2012: NEWS OF THE HERMITAGE LOCUSTS
MICHEL CHAPOUTIER reports that on 25 July, 2012, in his role as President of the Union of Vignerons of Hermitage, he and the Mayor of Tain l`Hermitage met representatives of the engineering company ITAS TIM. The main antenna is 18 metres or 54 feet high, and there is a second antenna as well. Michel reported: "in order to move forward on this project, various concrete actions were proposed during the meeting. The proposals made were either 1) moving the two antennas or 2) hiding the antennas with a technique proposed by ITAS TIM. From now on, the various parties have committed to pass information on to each other in the coming weeks in order to find a positive solution." La Lutte Continue, Camarades - The Struggle Continues, so keep signing the petition.
There is a plague of locusts set to descend on the hill of Hermitage in the form of an 18 metre TV mast, the contract for which was signed earlier this year. Wine lovers are naturally dismayed by such a proposal, which has engendered comparisons with the bridge construction over the Mosel in the heart of the vineyards there - work suspended, but due to resume, by the way.
However, the Hermitage story has a complicated finesse about it. Money takes the main role, with self-interest and prestige attached on its coat tails. The debate among the vignerons to apply for Special Site protection for the Hill of Hermitage occurred just a few years ago, but it was decided not to proceed since part of the requirement was for the Hill to be blamelessly just that - a Hill covered in vineyards. Not a hill covered in vineyards and stone wall publicity panels.
These stone wall announcements, which are proliferating in crude manner at Côte-Rôtie, are themselves of some historic interest. One of the mayoral families of the early to mid-nineteenth century, the Bergiers, owned what was termed as a "quite enormous" holding of eight hectares in the 1860s. M.Bergier was not a shy customer, having built a full replica Pompeii Villa on the slopes in full view of the town. An artist and a lawyer, he then proceeded to put up an enormous signboard marked HERMITAGE CUVÉE BERGIER in red and white on Le Méal, which is the climat topped by cypress trees east of the mighty Les Bessards and L`Hermite.
Hence started the Hollywood style advertising on the hill. Fast forward to summer 2012, and because the Hill has no Special Site Status protecting it - in the late 2000s the growers had preferred to keep their publicity walls, so knocking on the head the Special Site application -the 18 metre TV mast can be built.
It may well be that the village of Crozes-Hermitage benefits from this, since it is said to be lined up for land in their commune, and perhaps viewers in the hilly Ardèche across the river will be able to get their favourite soaps and cycle races in full HD quality. It also appears that the main houses such as Chapoutier and Jaboulet had absolutely no knowledge of the project. Sounds a bit like the boys from Crozes getting one over their illustrious neighbours, you could say.
With much kerfuffle surrounding this intended move, I, like many others, received an e-mail from Michel Chapoutier a couple of days ago in which he did indeed refer to the Publicity Walls. He points out that after the railways construction in the 19th century, only walls that held the terraces together were painted for publicity purposes. Since then, he recognises, walls that are purely for show purposes have been painted. This concerns CHAPOUTIER and PAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ.
Michel`s proposal to Caroline Frey of Jaboulet is that their publicity-only walls be taken down, if they are to have any chance of succeeding in their defence of the hill and its protected classification. This would allow them to request the moving or reducing of the Antenna, it seems, not necessarily its wholesale banishment. La Chapelle, the chapel, by the way, stands on the climat of L`Hermite. Right behind the Chapelle is the commune of Crozes-Hermitage.
But while talking money, let`s talk . . more money. I also find it scandalous that the bottom of the Bessards site, the granite-based hill on the west end of Hermitage, is now up for building. Rights to build exist on the Jardin des Vignerons at the bottom of the hill, where a jardin potager has existed for decades. Tomatoes, leeks, cardoons feature here. This can now have apartments built on it . . or even shiny new cellars (no names mentioned).
The moral of this Sorry Tale is that if you allow the Crown Jewels to slip through your fingers, today`s world of avarice will swiftly swallow them, hawk out the best bits, spit out the rest, and then move on to the Next Game in Town.
FLOREAT HERMITAGE, but for how long??
The French - yes, the French, not the international lobby - have set up a petition website, so please go this link and sign up. The more non-French the signees, the better, and the greater impact. https://www.change.org/fr/p%C3%A9titions/ministre-de-la-culture-et-de-la-communication-que-l-on-ne-d%C3%A9figure-pas-la-colline-de-l-hermitage