2003 Domaine Albert Belle, Crozes-Hermitage Cuvee Louis Belle
This is one of those appellations I talk about all the time, but rarely get the chance to drink. A parasitic twin of the unholy Hermitage vineyards it surrounds, it feeds off the eponymous appellation--taking its gravelly terroir and sometimes producing wines that taste, in their youth, like Hermitage does after several years. The Louis Belle comes close to that. Its grapey fruit is rich and dark, something so grapey that it might be cloying in other hands. But the oak's held well in check, adding good grip to the wine, but no annoying sweetness. Of course, it lives and dies by that, and part of what's lacking here is the true depth you'd get from Hermitage proper. Cruel, I know, to hold it to such high standards. What it does accomplish, though, goes down very easy--much like the glut of low-cost Spanish garnacha on the market today--yet just as floral and pretty as you'd expect a good Rhone syrah to be.