Grapevine Archive for Chave
Earlier this month seemed the right time for evaluating older vintages of Hermitage, and so it proved to be. There were a few reds to start of with, some from unfancied vintages like 2008 and 2002 (delicious wines in both cases).
The main event however was to look at the whites, especially those from Jean-Louis Chave, whose wines we have been fortunate enough to buy since 1971.
Hermitage is a special place and in recent years the reds have been much lauded. The whites are just as special but are less well known. More complicated too as they need patience and the right dishes, for these are definitely food wines. Both Gérard Chave and his son Jean-Louis are passionate about food and are keenly involved in the slow food movement and that to our minds is where white Hermitage belongs.
The wines tasted were mostly from Chave and mostly whites, but what a line up and what wonderful wines.
Saint-Joseph, Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, 2009
To get us in the mood. Incredible youth and vigour. Still firm but with lots of fruit and promise. Real polish here and lovely fruit. Concentrated with a touch of oak still present. Drink 2013 to 2024 but back end of 2013 at least. 13.5%
Hermitage, Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, 2008
A revelation. Real finesse here. Lovely fruit. Very fine and nearly ready. Could be enjoyed now with a ragout of lamb. 2015-2028. No hurry. 14%. (Stock available; telephone for details)
Hermitage, Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, 2007
More closed, more Mediterranean, herby, black olive. Has concentration and middle palate. Will be wonderful. Tasted the next day, this was a very pleasant surprise, more open, still fresh. 2015 to 2028. 14%. (Limited stock available; telephone for details)
Hermitage, Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, 2004
Textbook Hermitage. Everything in place. Balanced, fine and long. Fruit has clarity and depth. To drink with roast pigeon or maybe pheasant. Perfect now + 10 years. 14%. (Stock available; telephone for details)
Hermitage, La Chapelle, Jaboulet, 2003
More shiraz than syrah. Rich, sweet, full-bodied and with the taste of slightly burnt blackberry jam. Splendid nonetheless but saying more about the vintage than about Hermitage maybe. Would serve with roast haunch of venison. 2013 to 2025. 14.5%. (Stock available; telephone for details)
Hermitage, Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, 2002
Has finesse and delicacy and obviously speaks from a great terroir in a difficult vintage. Great effort and would work really well with roast lamb. Perfect now but would keep to 2020. 13%.
Hermitage, La Chapelle, Jaboulet, 2001
Still closed. Has weight and depth and length too but dormant. Drink from 2014. 13.5%. (Stock available; telephone for details)
Hermitage, Chante Alouette, Chapoutier, 2009
A whopping 15% here and in this baby it shows. Don?t touch! Much better on day 2: citrus and liquid honey and better integrated too. 2014 to 2022. (Stock available; telephone for details)
Hermitage Blanc, Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, 2008
Very lovely, fresh. There?s honey and some weight but also a touch of herbs as well. The next day, still fresh and clean but more mineral, even salty. Can drink now, perhaps with salt-baked sea bass. Now to 2021. 14.5%. (Stock available; telephone for details)
Hermitage, Chevalier de Sterimberg, Jaboulet, 2007
Real joy here. A lovely white Rhône, the first vintage made by Caroline Frey and Jacques Desvernois. This has weight and fruit and a lovely balance. Lemon and honey, long and with good persistent grip on the finish. Seafood risotto. Now to 2020. 14%. (Very limited availability; telephone for details)
Hermitage, Rocoules, Marc Sorrel, 2006
More rustic maybe. Very full-bodied and with bags of character in flavour. Not at all unbalanced despite high alcohol. Good grip. Desperate for food too. More closed on day 2 but enjoyable already. Quenelle de brochet sauce Nantua, with extra sauce probably. Now to 2020 but will probably live longer. 15.5%. (Stock available; telephone for details)
Hermitage Blanc, Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, 2006
Textbook white Hermitage. Perfect and lovely now. 2006, a great northern Rhône vintage to boot. Achingly fine, full-flavoured with just enough oiliness and a heavenly finish. Gigot de lotte, purée de pomme de terre a l?ail. Now to 2026. 14.5%. (Stock available; telephone for details)
Hermitage Blanc, Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, 2004
A more old-fashioned Hermitage maybe. Very full, waxy, honeyed with just a hint of austerity. Opened up well on the second day. Decant before serving maybe. Poulet a l?ail. Now to 2018. 14.5%. (Stock available; telephone for details)
Hermitage Blanc, Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, 2003
Remarkable. Stupendous even. Great white Hermitage from the heatwave vintage of 2003. Very powerful but also very fine and fresh. Sensation of sweetness on the palate. Liquid honey but there?s some citrus too. Very youthful. Ris de veau, purée de pomme de terre. Now to 2025. 15%. (Stock available; telephone for details)
Hermitage, Rocoules, Marc Sorrel, 2003
Old-fashioned, very full and flavoursome. Weighty but carries its strength well. Not the finesse of the Chave maybe but still very good and very authentic. Almost meaty. Mushroom risotto with a glass in the stock. Now to 2018. 14.5%. (Stock available; telephone for details)
Hermitage Blanc, Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, 2002
More Burgundian in style, very fine with some delicacy and a touch of honey. Savoury the following day with some tension. Baked sea bass maybe or fish pie. Now to 2017. 13%. (Stock available; telephone for details)
Hermitage Blanc, Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, 2002
Closed. Lots there but nothing giving much away. Less good the following day. Previously tasted last year when it was fabulously good. Will retaste. 13%. (Stock available; telephone for details)
Hermitage Blanc, Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, 1999
Lovely example of mature Hermitage. In very good shape and better than when tasted this time last year. Full flavour, oily with lots of weight and great length. Monkfish, or maybe a decent hard cheese. Now to 2020. 13%. (Stock available; telephone for details)
Hermitage Blanc, Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, 1989
Like old riesling at first! Whiff of petrol which then dissipates. Very fine, complex, mature. Exquisite. The finest cheddar money can buy. Another five years? 13%. (Very limited availability; telephone for details)
I can remember my first visit to Chave back in 1987. I tasted Hermitage, vineyard by vineyard, finishing always with the mighty Bessards. Saint-Joseph was never more than an afterthought in the line up, tasted if at all between the white and red Hermitage.
How things have changed. Slowly, Gérard and his son Jean-Louis began reclaiming once famous slopes below their ancestral home of Lemps. Then Jean-Louis started to buy wines from friends and neighbours, and eventually grapes as well. The new wine was given the name Offerus and is a textbook Saint-Joseph which the Society has bought in every vintage (the 2004 is still available at the time of writing).
The picture is of a steep part of Saint-Joseph called the Tête de l’Aigle or ‘Eagle’s Head’ after the striking outcrop of granite that stands in the middle of it. This is part of an estate recently acquired by Jean-Louis Chave. This came when Jean-Louis bought the Florentin estate, the heart of which was the historic Clos de l’Arbelestrier (a source of exceptional reds in particular). With it the Chaves have become masters in Saint-Joseph once again, with a clear intention of making great wine.
So back to my visit: now not just Hermitage is tasted vineyard by vineyard, but also Saint-Joseph, which revealed just how complex this patchwork of largely granite slopes can be. The two vintages tasted were 2010 and 2009 though I did have a little look at a somewhat embryonic and promising 2011.
Both ’10 and ’09 were clearly outstanding, though quite different: 2009 is full and sundrenched with an underlying tannic structure of some substance. 2010 is, if anything, blacker and more intense, but more mineral and shot with a life-affirming seam of acidity. Look out for the 2010 Saint Joseph Offerus which we will include in the Opening Offer due out in January.
We then dined together in a perfect little restaurant where the cooking is simple, homespun and delicious. Jean-Louis bought a bottle he happened to stumble over in his cellar. It was a Cornas from Noel Verset and a 1978 to boot. Completely sensational. For anyone with decent vintages of Verset’s wines in their cellar, there is no hurry!