Winemakers like to point out that a wine will not gain, but only lose, fruit with aging. Fruit, however, can sometimes be deceiving. This Domaine de Thalabert Crozes from Jaboulet (one of my favorite Northern Rhone wines during the 1980s) was a bit disappointing when I tasted it in the late 1990s--weedy, thin and lacking in fruit. The tannins that were obscuring the fruit were not very apparent to me at that time, but the wine in my glass tonight has strong black raspberry fruit with all the nuances that I love in Thalabert Crozes-Hermitage--cassis, blackcurrants, violets, black olives, herbs and juniper berries. The bouquet has a nice lift, giving an impression of freshness for a wine now more than two decades in the bottle. In the mouth, the wine is full bodied and has even more concentration than you expect from the bouquet. This is now a big wine--plums, berries, cassis and peppercorn with a savory Provencal olive finish. My patience has been rewarded.
Crozes-Hermitage is not a particularly worthy appellation; most of the vineyards are on flat land below the highly regarded sites of Hermitage and Cote Rotie. I have always considered Thalabert to be the best of the appellation, however, and the wines were under $10 a bottle through most of the 1980s and early 1990s when Jaboulet was producing excellent wines. Nearly all are still drinking well. I continued to buy Thalabert through most of the 1990s, but reports have been increasingly negative during recent years while prices have been steadily going up. The last vintage I bought was 1998, and I would be happy to hear experiences that others have had with Domaine Thalabert.