Tue 04 Dec 2012

Louis Jaboulet, 1912-2012


Louis Jaboulet, who celebrated his 100th birthday this summer, sadly passed away last month.

Louis was one of the key figures in the Rhône wine trade and central to its success story. When he entered the family firm in 1935, the Rhône was on the fringes of the wine world and many of its best wines were still used to blend others. The appellation system was just about starting but many Rhône names like Crozes-Hermitage did not exist. By the time he handed the running of the business to his famously talented son Gérard in 1977, Louis Jaboulet had given the world several celebrated icons, such as the 1961 vintage of Hermitage La Chapelle.

As a young man, Louis was encouraged to travel and he spent time in both Germany and in this country. Knowledge of a foreign language was clearly an advantage and he would make full use of it later on. Louis did war service in the elite mountain regiment of Chasseurs Alpins which distinguished itself during the short campaign against the Mussolini?s forces. After demobilisation, he returned to Tain l?Hermitage, married and took over from his father in running the business.

The post-war period was one of expansion. There were new vineyards, new appellations and new markets to explore. Louis, with a case of samples, would cross both the Atlantic and the Channel in search of customers. On one such foray into London he met Albert Cable and Christopher Tatham MW, then Wine Society buyers, somewhere close to Saint James?s Bond in Rotherhithe. That started a partnership that has endured to this day. The Wine Society?s first purchase included bottles of ?61 La Chapelle.

Louis Jaboulet was nothing if not multi-talented. He ran his business with pride and confidence. He was astute in many of his dealings, for example buying much of their vines in the Méal slope while the ?61 was being harvested!

He was a qualified oenologist and presided over many glorious vintages. The Jaboulet family saw the potential that existed in the flatter, well-drained lands between Tain and Valence. They bought a fruit orchard called Thalabert and replanted it with syrah vines. Louis turned this into a fabulous vineyard at about the same time as the appellation Crozes-Hermitage as we know it today was being created. Very quickly, Thalabert became the benchmark for all good Crozes. The 1961 remains in perfect condition.

At the time, Paul Jaboulet owned no land in the southern Rhône but Louis bought wisely. Some of us remember the wonderful bottlings of 1967 Châteauneuf-du-Pape les Cèdres with affection. But Hermitage was always the business. ?Now for some real wine!? he would bark on entering the tasting room.

Commercial considerations were always uppermost in his mind. Sebastian Payne MW remembers Louis never left without a firm order. Paul Jaboulet Aîné were among the first to understand the power of the brand and created world famous brands like Thalabert and Chapelle. Unlike many imitators however, Louis Jaboulet always made sure that the brand was backed up by irreproachable quality.

Louis?s retirement was long and never fully convincing and he was always about when Society buyers came to taste the new vintage. He was engaging in conversation where his subjects raged from food, hunting to rugby. In later life he was saddened by the untimely death of his son Gérard and a few years later by the sale of the business. He enjoyed the visits of the new winemakers at Jaboulet and had celebrated his 100th birthday surrounded by family.

Marcel Orford-Williams
Society Buyer

Categories : France, Rhône


  1. Peers Carter says:

    What a beautiful and carefully crafted tribute to a fine man.

    Surely, the great Louis Jaboulet would be pleased to have been able to read this.

    Let us raise a glass of Crozes-Hermitage to the immortal Louis. A great and long life, full of vision and achievement.

    It is long-standing, genuine, human, mutually-respectful relationships like this which make The Wine Society something to be treasured – and the reason why it is unlikely ever to be equalled by any purely commercial entity.

  2. David Ling says:

    Nice people seem to make nice wine, it stands to reason !
    But great people like Louis and Gérard made great wines.
    Proud to have known them, I salute their memories…

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