Crozes-Hermitage is a large and not very distinguished appellation in the northern Rhone. The land is flatter and the yields higher than in the more prestigious appellations of Hermitage and Cote Rotie nearby. Paul Jaboulet's Domaine Thalabert, a pebble-covered 40-hectare plot with vines 40 to 60 years old, is arguably the best of the appellation, or at least was until the early 1990s. It was my favorite wine through the 1980s, and nearly all of these wines are still drinking well. While not as powerful or dramatic as Hermitage, Thalabert Crozes is often more intense and complex in its personality. In the 1980, 1984 and even 1982 vintages, I preferred Thalabert to its sibling, Hermitage la Chapelle, recognized as one of the world's greatest wines and priced accordingly.
The color is a deep, dark ruby; has lightened a bit but there is only a little browning around the edges. The bouquet reveals a very classy French Syrah--red and black berries, black currants, violets and cassis. It smells dry but is very fruit oriented. There is plenty of acid to keep the wine lively on the palate; sharply focused entry followed by a good mid-palate presence and a strong, fruit-oriented finish. This has aged very nicely and is even better than the last bottle I had some four or five years ago.