2017 Domaine Rene-Jean Dard et Francois Ribo, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge, Northern Rhone, France.
Cult heros of France’s natural wine movement, most famous for their Crozes-Hermitage Syrah(s), René-Jean Dard and François Ribo, who met while at wine college in Beaune, founded their label and estate from a tiny Card family parcel back in 1984, and used a rented cellar in a out of the way back street of Tain-l’Hermitage, from where they crafted their quaffable and lighter style wines. Now after some under ground success they are making the wines in part of a large farm building in the hamlet of Blanche-Laine in Mercurol, barely a stones throw from the partners birthplaces in Tournon in the Ardèche and Tain-l’Hermitage in the Drôme, they are traditionalists at heart and without any pretense, they make wines that are meant to be drunk young and enjoyed without any thought to cellaring, even though Rene-Jean’s and Francois’ wines are now fabulously hard to get and find. The fresh 2017 Crozes-Hermitage Rouge is an elegant version of unextracted Syrah, as they put it, it’s a wine for immediate enjoyment, coming from from plots located mainly in Larnage, on red clay with gravel and alluvial stones, making a more fruit forward expression. This 2017 Crozes met all my expectations and delivered an impressive performance throughout the night getting more and more beautiful with air and time. Dard and Ribo do some single lieu-dit bottlings as well as Saint-Joseph, some whites and a super rare Hermitage Rouge, but it is this humble Crozes that seems to get the biggest buzz!
Though they have a fanatic following, Dard and Ribo, as well regarded and respected natural wine writer Jamie Goode, who is also a big fan of these guys, notes, they are known for keeping a low profile, and rarely accept visits and while strict in the vineyards with organic farming and a minimalistic approach in the cellar, they are not driven by dogma alone, allowing the use of some sulfur if needed, though no other additions are employed. I have always tried to keep up on Dard & Ribo and have enjoyed a few bottles over the years, but can’t say I have all of their stuff as again it is difficult to get their wines, and this 2017, sourced through SommSelect, was a lucky find. This vintage is remarkable for its exceptional purity and surprising concentration, it shows gorgeous fruit and translucent detail with a perfumed nose of crushed violets and black fruits with hints of herb, black olive tapenade and spices which leads to a vivid palate that echos the bouquet and adds damson plum, boysenberry, blueberry and kirsch along with no presence of oak or funk, just clear and vibrant fruit from start to finish. This wine, definitely, shows why these guys have the following they do, it is absolutely irresistible in the glass with its deep purple/garnet and magenta hue and satiny tannins, and while lighter in style, this Syrah impresses for its completeness and finesse, like Maxime Graillot’s Equinoxe and Domaine des Lises Equis wines, though maybe a touch denser in feel. I’m glad I grabbed a few bottles of this delicious Syrah that I will, as so many, covet, opening them for special occasions and or special meals.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive