The Crozes Hermitage is one of the most iconic and important French appellations. With such a poor 2016 harvest across France there is going to be even more focus on the region and the quality and availability of its wines in the coming months. In order to get a better picture on the opportunities and challenges for the region The Buyer caught up with Yann Chave from Domaine Yann Chave and co-president of the AOC Crozes Hermitage.
Yann Chave from Domaine Yann Chave is ideally placed to give his views on the 2016 vintage in Crozes Hermitage and how much it is in debt to the support of the UK trade and wine consumer.
How do you see the market for Crozes Hermitage in 2017?
The market is very positive for Crozes Hermitage going in to 2017, especially since we have had very interesting recent vintages such as the 2015. For the last few years, we’ve also been producing wines which have both quality and volume and as a result we’ve seen a growth in demand for our wines. So all in all, this is very positive.
What are your key export targets and why?
Our key markets are the UK, which is number one with more than 8,000hl exported every year. The second is the Scandinavian countries with the US in third place.
We’re also starting to focus on new and interesting markets where the competition is still low such as Eastern Europe, Southern Asia, China, Thailand, Singapore and South Korea. All of these countries have started to consume more and more wine and the demand and interest for Rhône wines is rising.
How do you see the UK market? What are the big opportunities?
Well considering it is responsible for 41% of the appellation’s exports it is a crucial market for us. But it is also a challenging market as it is very saturated. That said there are still real opportunities here as consumers are well educated about wine and it is fair to say that there are real connoisseurs of wine in the UK who appreciate quality and who have perfected their wine knowledge.
They are in fact, one of the most knowledgeable ‘export consumer’. This is also the case for new wine drinkers, especially millennials, who show a real interest and desire to learn more about the category. These are the consumers we want to educate and accompany on their wine journey.
The Crozes Hermitage appellation is a great source of discovery for the UK consumer. Its retail price is also an important argument. For example, the growth of grand crus has been very beneficial for us. Some of the Rhône crus are expensive and therefore not available to everyone while our price range has enabled us to bridge the gap between quality and accessibility. This is something that consumers in this market have recognised and is one of the reasons of our success in the UK.
Can you talk us through the 2016 vintage and any challenges it now brings to the region, but also the opportunities?
2016 is a very interesting vintage, especially as we have avoided hail, frost and mildew. Unfortunately a lot of regions haven’t been so fortunate.
2015 was exceptional, with very rich aromas, so it was important that the next vintage presented similar qualities and this is currently the case. Also, we know that globally wine volumes are low so it was crucial that we maintained the same quantity levels. We have all the elements in place for a superb 2016 vintage.
Any villages/appellations that you think still need to be recognised more?
Each AOC in the Rhône is worth knowing. One thing that I think deserve more recognition is the quality of all wines being offered in the Rhône – for example our white wines may be less well known, but they are also of great quality.
How do you best communicate with and influence UK buyers and sommeliers?
We organised specific tastings aimed at the trade last year which were very well received. Our appellation and its producers are very dynamic in the UK. We often travel to present the wines as we look to build and strengthen relationships with buyers, sommeliers etc. We really want to open conversations with the trade and understand their preoccupations, needs, visions.
For example last year we launched, London by Crozes Hermitage, an initiative which allowed us to work very closely with a range of restaurateurs and sommeliers across Europe. We created a magazine – which was very well received – aimed at the trade and celebrating their knowledge and expertise.
If you were recommending key areas of Crozes Hermitage for a wine list what would you suggest to cover the main pricepoints?
There are three ‘terroirs’ in Crozes:
- The north of the appellation will present wines with a fresh character. I would recommend Fayolle Fils et Fille à Gervans and Cap Nord from Laurent Combier
- In the south ‘Les Chassis’: Domaine des Hauts-Chassis “Les Galets” and Domaine de Thalabert from Paul Jaboulet Aîné
- In the south in the “Beaumont-Monteux” part : Domaine des Bruyères “Cuvée Georges Reynaud” and Cave de Tain Cuvée BM.
What are your thoughts for the 2017 vintage? What do you hope to achieve to make up for any shortfall in 2016?
It is hard to make any predictions for the 2017 vintage at this point but in Crozes Hermitage we weren’t affected by the shortage in water that affected other regions in France
What plans do you have for the UK in 2017?
Inter-Rhône is planning a trade tasting in London where there will be the chance to taste some Crozes Hermitage wines along with other appellations from the Rhône region (Côtes du Rhône, Villages and Crus).
Is there anything happening in the region during 2017 that buyers should be aware of?
There is Découvertes en Vallée du Rhône which is the dedicated Rhône Wine fair which is taking place between April 10 and 13. It is unlike any event that takes part in the region. It only takes place every two years – the next edition will be in 2019 – and offers the opportunity to taste a range of wine jewels from the Rhône and meet over 600 winemakers.
The event includes masterclasses, meetings and debates between wine enthusiasts from all over the world. It will also include VIP prestigious tastings of old vintage and rare cuvées and visitors will get the chance to taste 2016 vintage for the first time. There is also a full social programme of events and dinners in the evening.
Key Crozes Hermitage figures:
Total production for Crozes Hermitage: 68 304 hl.
Export sales: 29% of production.
(Economic Department Inter-Rhône 2015)