Domaine du Colombier

2004 Hermitage

Syrah •Appelation Hermitage Controlee

France: Rhône Valley

Offer Expired:Jun 28, 2009 at 11:59 pm
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Mission Codename: Hermitage Heritage

Operative: Agent White

Objective: Select a classic wine from France’s Northern Rhone.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Domaine du Colombier

Wine Subject: 2004 Hermitage AOC

Winemaker: Florent Viale


While, some consider the Northern Rhone just a gateway to the south, lovers of French wines know that some of France’s finest wines are grown and produced in this region. Specifically, Hermitage AOC (and the Cote Rotie as well), known for classic Syrah wines that rival the best Cru Classes wines of Bordeaux. While the appellation allows for up to 15% of Marsanne and Roussane to be added the best wines from this AOC are 100% Syrah and balance power and weight with finesse and elegance.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Deep and dark purple with an almost black nearly opaque inky core. When held up to the light, garnet and ruby highlights glisten and the edges fade ever so slightly to garnet. Slow clusters of fat legs cling the edge of the glass when swirled.

Smell – Fragrant and well developed with ripe berries including blueberry, dusty red raspberry and blackberry that is layered over complex notes of earth, herbal fennel and floral violet hints.

Feel – Full-bodied, weighty and almost chewy in texture, this full-bodied with has firm but silky tannins and balanced medium acidity round with a touch of minerality that lingers through to the finish.

Taste – Rich and deeply concentrated flavors of blueberry, plum, and other red and black fruits are well integrated with a touch of exotic spice and the region’s trademark white pepper kick. Herbal fennel, smoke, floral violets and toasted oak round out the complex flavor profile of this lovely wine.

Finish – Weighty in the finish with fruit flavors that include plum, blueberry and black-fruit with lingering minerality, herbal notes and spice that goes on and on.

Conclusion – The 2004 Domaine du Columbier Hermitage is a delicious wine that truly represents the region’s tradition for exceptional wine. 100% Syrah, this wine has bold and rich fruit, but being classic old-world in its style and production, shows tremendous finesse and elegance. Perfect for anything you through on the grill or snuggling up in front of the bonfire on the beach, this wine will not disappoint.

Mission Report:

For those who know me, Summer time is a favorite season, not only because I enjoy barbecuing and the beach, but each summer one of the greatest sporting events occurs in the greatest of all stadiums. The Tour de France is that specular event with the stadium being the entire country of France.

Spanning 3500km and three weeks its a site to see and lovers of wine will immediately recognize the various regions traversed by those exceptional athletes. This year’s tour starts on the 4th of July in Monaco.

Just a few days ago I was talking with other enthusiasts of both the tour and wine and we pulled out a map to see what villages were included in this years race. And what better to do with good friends, sharing travel stories and pondering future trips? Well, opening up a classic French wine of course!

We wanted something a little different. Not that we were burnt out on Burgundy or Bordeaux, but to often those wines are enjoyed to the detriment of other great wines. So reaching back into the far corner of my cellar I retrieved today’s selection from Domaine du Columbier.

We sipped and enjoyed the wine, reminiscing about past races and journeys with great excitement for this years race.

A votre sante!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Hermitage AOC can be seen in this satellite photo.

What the Winery Says

Awards & Accolades:

5 Star AwardDecanter Magazine – “Very deep colour, mineral leather, aniseed and tar, symphonic complexity. Pleasing palate, good tannins, quite impressive encyclopedic fruit profile and real depth of flavour. 3 – 15 years.”

Tanners Wine Merchant – “From the tallest man in the Rhône, Florent Viale, a quite modern, showy style with lots of oak which comes over as creamy, spicy and full in the mouth, yet still elegant. Dark fruit in the middle, a style that improves with age.”

About This Wine:

“Wine deserves respect!” likes to remind us Philippe Walbaum, whose intonations and imaged language enchant all who meet him. Above all, this strong-willed man is a vigneron who has a fascination for his art, a lover and a champion of the wine-growing traditions of his beautiful region of the Ardèche

About The Winery:

In the authentic setting of a family-owned wine growing domain, come and discover an array of ‘vins de pays’ produced with the quality and respect which are the hallmarks of the age-old tradition of the wines from the Ardèche. Nobody who has ever been to Le Colombier ever forgets his or her visit!

You are warmly welcomed: "Bienvenue !

At the Domaine du Colombier, everything is arranged so as to provide the warmest of welcomes, to offer superb and friendly wine-tasting moments to our visitors. The setting, with its stonewalls, set off by columns, cypress trees and manicured lawns is as beautiful as the welcome is friendly.

About The Winemaker:

Florent Viale, whose father used to sell his Hermitage fruit to Guigal, started making his own wine in 1991. This tiny property is situated on the outskirts of Tain l’Hermitage, just below the Hermitage hill itself and is one of the finest in the appellation.

Additional Intel:

Extract from the book: The Wines of the Northern Rhône Valley by John Livingstone-Learmont, University of California Press

Every appellation needs its “engine room” domaines – those that keep turning out well-made wines without fuss and pretensions. Colombier is one such estate.

Very tall, chatty, and charming, Florent Viale runs the wine side. His grandfather was a mixed farmer, with chickens, cows, and horses, plus vines and fruit. The family continues to cultivate fruit trees and since 1991 has bottled and sold its wine. Previously the Hermitage was sold to Guigal, the red Crozes to Ogier and to Burgundy, and the white Crozes to Paul Jaboulet Aîné – good addresses all. Now just about 10 per cent, from the young vines and the press wine, goes away in bulk.

The cellars are part of a pretty domaine at the foot of the east side of the Hermitage hill and have been there for three generations. Father Gaby, born in 1939, is a contemporary of Albert Belle, and both men set off on their own domaine wine track at about the same time. The Viales have always worked half in fruit, notably apricots plus some cherry and peach. Cherries are the least popular fruit from the angle of their harvesting clashing with vineyard work in mid-May.

The vineyard holdings have grown in the past few years. There are over 13 hectares of Syrah for their Crozes, 1.9 hectares of Marsanne for the white, and precious 1.81 hectares for the Hermitage.

The Crozes Syrah grows on gentle, tractor-friendly terraces around Mercurol and Tain. Colombier itself is right in the commune of Tain, with a filtering, sandy-sediment soil topped with broken stones. At Mercurol the soil is more red clay, with a couch of gravel about a metre down. Their Crozes runs over a dozen or so plots.

The Marsanne grows in four plots; many of the vines date back between 70 and 100 years, their centre being Croix du Torras, right next to the most easterly slope of Hermitage, Les Signeaux, or Torras et les Garennes as it is now known. The other three plots are at Mercurol, led by a notable 0.3 ha of 1902 Marsanne on Les Pends. “We bought this in 1997,” recalls Florent; “it’s a fantastic old vineyard, but it took me four winters with my pickaxe to get it in better shape. The old owner would deliver the crop to the Cave de Tain.” The other sites at Mercurol are Mont Rousset and Creux Charbonnier.

The outlook is practical. Spraying is done against grape worm blight, but likewise, excess leaves are cleared and the soil is banked and worked. “I adapt as necessary,” says Florent: “I just want healthy vines.”

Florent was a latecomer to the domaine, having worked off a serious amount of wanderlust. His travels took him to Central America and Africa, and he worked as a ski instructor in the Vercors mountains nearby, before a year’s training in the Libourne near Bordeaux in 1988. He has a relaxed attitude and with his broad outlook is happy to chat beyond the subject of wine.

The Syrah is vinified whole in a variety of vats – concrete, steel and wood; a 30-hectolitre open wood vat is from his grandfather’s time, and Florent does a foot pigeage on this: “It’s useful to help me judge the vintage quality because in the good years it’s hard to break down the top crust; I wear my bathing trunks for that.”

The Crozes is fermented for two weeks, around the 30 C mark, with the end temperature rising to 34 C before gradually descending to 22 C and devatting. Florent is careful about excess heat for the loss of fruit it can bring.

Ageing is 50 to 60 per cent in cask, with the demi-muid 600-litre barrel favoured, the rest steel or enamel vats. The Gaby cuvée is selected from the best casks wine, one month before bottling around November, 14 months after the harvest.

The classic red shows soft fruit, with a sprinkling of tannin, a wine that is fine to drink within three to six years old, although it should last longer. The Gaby rouge (18,000 bottles) has more scale – increased black fruit and tarry content. It gains leathery tones with age and drinks well towards 12 years old or so.

The white receives only a light decantation after pressing, and is then 80 per cent vat, 20 per cent oak fermented, and raised for 10 months. Since 1997 there has also been a Cuvée Gaby white (1,500 bottles), all done in new wood for a year when conditions lend themselves (there was no Gaby in 2000). Florent’s comments on this are a relief to hear: “We started to make this wine with lees stirring, but the wine came out too massive and wooded, with low acidity and a loss of finesse. Now we let the malo occur.”

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