As in Hermitage, the Crozes-Hermitage vineyards ( AOC since 1937) are located on the left bank of the river. Although the name suggests otherwise, the wines from these two appellations have little in common. Crozes-Hermitage is cultivated over 1,500 hectares (as per 2013), making it the biggest appellation in the Norther Rhône. Divided over eleven municipalities, the region stretches from Serves-sur-Rhône in the north to Pont-de-l’Isère in the south. Like Saint-Joseph, the appellation has increased significantly in recent decades, while the cooperative in Tain l‘Hermitage and the négociant Jaboulet still account for the lion’s share of production.
The appellation produces primarily red wine (92% in 2013) based on syrah grapes (blended with a maximum of 15% roussanne and/or marsanne, the approved varieties for white Crozes-Hermitage). Differences in terroir and climate factors result in significant variations in the character of these wines. The southern vineyards are situated on plateaus and terraces tucked in between the Rhône and the Isère, and surrounded by fruit orchards. The soil consists of thick layers of stones mixed with red clay. The wines here are fruity and supple and bear some resemblance to New World shiraz (blackcurrant jam). Exceptions are found in the area around Pont-de-l’Isère, where the best terroir is located (including Clos de Grives), and where the sublime red and white Crozes-Hermitage wines are produced.
In the north (east), the vineyards are located on steep hillsides. The rocky terraces of Larnage and Crozes-Hermitage are covered in loess and white sand. The soil in the most northern municipalities – Erôme, Serves and Gervans – contains granite covered with loess. This is where the most structured (tannin-rich) and complex red wines are produced and the most interesting white Crozes-Hermitage wines.