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Delas Hermitage Marquise de la Tourette 1994

I hope that in 2008 I shall be able to continue featuring a varied selection of wines every Monday; sometimes good, sometimes not so good, sometimes cheap and sometimes expensive, each one will, I intend, be of some merit. A number are cellar orphans, lone bottles picked up here and there, and this week and next week we have two such wines, both from the hill of Hermitage.

Delas Hermitage Marquise de la Tourette 1994Hermitage is a hill which is part of, in origin at least, the granitic Massif Central, the mountainous range which dominates central France. The western slopes reflect this, being formed from the appropriate granite, although those further round to the south and east possess quite different terroir, with soils of loess mixed with varying amounts and depths of decomposed rocky material. Altogether it amounts to about 15 hectares, considerably less than many estates in Bordeaux, and yet here we have a well recognised subdivision of the appellation into a number of vineyards, each one with its own reputation and standing within the commune.

Perhaps one of the most exalted plots is Les Bessards, which runs up the western end of the hill, overlooking the Rhône, on the aforementioned granite slopes, with soils rich in broken granite and iron. It is the source (obviously) of the top cuvée from Delas, Les Bessards, which can be a truly stunning and magnificent wine, but the vines planted here also play a role in this wine, the second Hermitage in the portfolio. Delas own 7 hectares of this section of the hill, as well as 2.5 hectares in Les Grandes Vignes and, a little higher up and along the slope in l'Hermite, sandwiched in part between Les Bessards and the famed Le Méal, and above the latter running along the boundary between the Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage appellations, a further 0.5 hectares. All provide wines of good quality, although of different character; Les Bessards is without doubt firmer, Le Méal perhaps a more scented, perfumed wine. With this in mind we should expect a prime example of northern Rhône Syrah from a bottle such as this, the 1994 Hermitage Marquis de Tourette from Delas, our enthusiasm tempered only by the knowledge that this was a 'correct' but not exciting vintage.

Delas Hermitage Marquise de la Tourette 1994In the glass it is immediately apparent that there isn't a great depth of colour to this wine; at the core it has a brick red hue, and there is some early browning at the rim. Certainly it is showing maturity, and on the nose there are some very tertiary aromas, of stony seashells, smoke, furry animal skin and farmyards. It seems a little mousey, and Brett seems to be playing a role here; also it seems slightly hot. The first impression on the palate is of softness, and then a farmyardy flavour which matches exactly the aroma found on the nose. The texture is nice, and there is decent extract, although the grip is a little raw and bitter. Overall it seems to have lost its way; there is no direction, it is unfocused, and although there is a little acidity at the fore there isn't the delineation or freshness I would like. All in all, this is mostly a wine of the farmyard. There is rusticity and no finesse. I am afraid I find it very disappointing, although with Brett variation from one bottle to the next is almost inevitable, so some bottles may be much better than this. 13.5/20 (7/1/08)

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