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Domaine Alain Graillot

Touchstone Crozes-Hermitage

The Rhône lost one of its great pioneers in early 2022. Alain Graillot, the godfather of Crozes-Hermitage, showed the wine world what was possible from this once disrespected northern Rhône outpost through his vision, passion and hard work. Domaine Alain Graillot quickly became the benchmark of Crozes and one of the most respected producers in the entire region. 

Alain was one of our foundational growers, having been in our portfolio since day one. An extract from our offer of his 2004 Crozes release reads: "You don’t have to spend too much time with Alain Graillot to understand why he has become so successful a vigneron. His depth of knowledge is remarkable, both in terms of viticulture and winemaking... yet he is also remarkably humble, quick to acknowledge the help he has had along the way and refusing to hike up his prices despite demand far outstripping supply." These words could have been written with accuracy at any time during Alain’s dynamic career in wine.

“There was a Crozes-Hermitage appellation pre-ALAIN GRAILLOT, and one post-ALAIN GRAILLOT. That’s a very rare comment in the general scheme of things.” John Livingstone-Learmonth.

Know that the domaine is in very good hands. Maxime Graillot has been making all the growing and winemaking decisions here for several years—with Alain only on hand for advice, no longer involved in the day-to-day. We have witnessed continuous growth and evolution for as long as we have been visiting and tasting—something that has only accelerated under Maxime Graillot. Alain would not have had it any other way.

Domaine Alain Graillot has the sort of vineyard that makes the wine traveller thirsty. It’s the kind of place that simply looks like it makes great wine. Gnarled yet well-manicured vines reach up from a sea of smooth, rolled stones, each about the size of a child’s fist. Chez Graillot, the vineyards run deep with such stones, sometimes as far down as 30 metres. It’s the kind of rocky terrain that is common in the southern Rhône but far less so in the north. You only have to look at it to see that this was once an ancient riverbed. The stones are in fact of Alpine origin, left behind when the nearby Isére River changed course in some ancient era. Anyway, it’s always refreshing when the wines live up to the scenery, and at the Graillot’s place, they really do.

Regarding winemaking, there are no secrets. The grapes are loaded (crushed yet not destemmed) into lined concrete vats and temperatures are brought down to 18°C for a two to five-day pre-fermentation maceration. The fermentation relies on natural yeast and, once this is finished, the wine is aged for one year in mostly 1-7-year-old 228-litre Burgundian barrels purchased from some of the top estates in Burgundy. Since the 2011 vintage, Stockinger ovals have begun to play a quiet, yet growing role. One small evolution is that Maxime Graillot is now giving the wines a slightly longer ageing—15/16 months, as opposed to the 12 months that was the norm when his father ran the show. The results are wines that are just that little bit more complex and complete on release.

Currently Available

Alain Graillot Syrah Morocco Syrocco 2021

Alain Graillot Syrah Morocco Syrocco 2021

This North African Syrah (for which the Graillot family consults) just gets better and better. It hails from the Atlantic-influenced hills of Morocco’s Zenata region, in the lee of the spectacular Middle Atlas Mountains. Fresh ocean breezes and a mix of red and black clay over a base of limestone and ancient ocean bed remnants provide the right mix of conditions for scented, juicy Syrah that Graillot believes can showcase the surprising potential of Morocco.The backstory is that Alain Graillot was cycling in Morocco (hence the tandem bike and palm tree on the label) when he stopped off at Domaine des Ouled Thaleb, 40 kilometres inland from the Atlantic Ocean. A conversation with the domaine's then-oenologist, Jacques Poulaine, and a close look at sites in Rommani and Benslimane convinced Graillot of the potential for producing highly elegant Syrah. The towns of Rommani and Benslimane lie between Casablanca on the Atlantic Ocean and the Middle Atlas. As such, there is a relatively cool climate thanks to the ocean breezes and an altitude of about 500 metres.The Syrah vines are between 10 and 40 years old (average 25 years). Overseen by Stéphane Mariot, the vineyard work is meticulous, with goblet pruning, hand-weeding, hand-ploughing and no herbicide or fungicide treatments used. The grapes are 100% destemmed and fermented in closed concrete vats. The wine matured for 15 months, first in tank and then in large oak casks imported from Burgundy (from François Frères).The 2021 has elements of Alain Graillot's Crozes (peppery, fruit-forward Syrah) combined with warming, baked fruit and spice notes that transport the drinker to North Africa. You don't have to accompany it with a tagine, but your guests will probably appreciate it if you make the effort!

Alain Graillot Syrah Morocco Syrocco 2021
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"Domaine Alain Graillot’s Crozes-Hermitage has long been a benchmark wine for the region. Thanks to worldwide distribution, starting in the mid- to late-1980s, it was, for many wine lovers, an introduction to the wines of the Northern Rhône and Syrah in general... Happily, his sons, Maxime and Antoine, who have been at the domaine’s helm since 2008, have not missed a beat regarding maintaining quality and the estate’s reputation." Josh Raynolds, Vinous

Country

France

Primary Region

Northern Rhône

People

Winemakers: Maxime & Antoine Graillot

Availability

National

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  • Domaine Alain Graillot
    Domaine Alain Graillot
    Those words from the late Josh Raynolds serve as a fitting introduction for those unfam...
    Those words from the late Josh Raynolds serve as a fitting introduction for those unfamiliar with this great estate. It is the highest-rated domain...

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