The largest appellation of the northern half of the Rhône Valley. Crozes-Hermitage is actually a collection of eleven communes that stretches from Serves-sur-Rhône to the north of Hermitage all the way to Pont de L'Isère far to the south. The best vineyards lie on the banks of the Rhône, while further to the east the land becomes more flat and the wines less distinct. There are several different soil types, from the hard granite of Hermitage to the galet stones found in the southern Rhône to a mixture of sand and clay.
This is Syrah country, and the grape makes up 90% of the wine produced. Syrah is the only red grape permitted in Crozes-Hermitage, but like in Hermitage up to 15% of the white varietals Marsanne and Roussanne is permitted, though not very common. The wines are overtly fruity, with dark plums, blackberries, violets, smoke, earth and game, but are lighter and less powerful than those made in Hermitage. They are also shorter lived. But because of this they spend less time in barrel (usually less than a year) so they are released earlier and are much less expensive, if less distinct. Crozes-Hermitage can be an excellent value, and is a great way to experience the Syrah of the northern Rhône without the usual northern Rhône price tag.
The whites of Crozes-Hermitage are also made from Marsanne and Roussanne and are usually produced form soils that have a higher percentage of clay. They are fruity, fragrant and floral, and have the weight of a good Burgundy but with a thoroughly different flavor and aromatic profile.