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Pure perfection, the 2010 Hermitage reminds Jean-Louis Chave of their 1990. It appears to be a richer, fresher example of what I remember the 1990 tasting like in 1992. The wine exhibits an opaque purple color along with an extraordinary bouquet of sweet blackberry fruit intermixed with creme de cassis, lead pencil shavings, acacia flowers, bouquet garni, meat and crushed rocks. Full-bodied and stunningly rich with laser-like precision, this is a powerful, massive yet exceptionally well-balanced wine that should be forgotten for a decade and drunk over the following 30-40 years. 

I have had the privilege of tasting at this brilliant family-owned estate for over 30 years. During that time, I have seen first-hand the glory of a true evolution from father Gerard Chave to his son, Jean-Louis, and of course, the Chave family has been doing this since 1472. It is one of those small but world-class wine enterprises that is truly inspiring. Tasting through the different vineyards before their newest red and white Hermitages are blended is an education in the different terroirs of that famous dome of largely decomposed granite mixed with gravel and clay. Jean-Louis Chave characterized the 2011 vintage as challenging, where one had to perform draconian crop-thinning and selections in the winery. All the St.-Joseph vineyards are located on steep hillsides near the Chaves’ home village of Mauves, to as far north as St.-Jean de Muzols and Ste.-Epine as well as those once known as Clos Florentin.

 

Located in the tiny village of Mauves, just south of Hermitage, lies one of the true bastilles of traditionally made wines, and there are few vinous experiences that surpass getting to taste through the different terroirs of Hermitage and Saint Joseph in Chave’s cellar. Founded in 1481, Chave has seen a long succession of generations, with Gerard Chave, who was born in 1935, slowly beginning to hand over the reins to his brilliant son, Jean-Louis (born in 1968), in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Today, the estate stays firmly planted in tradition, yet is far from resting on its laurels or reputation, completing work on a new cellar (just across the street from their existing cellar and connected via a tunnel) in 2014, and working hard on a number of new vineyard sites. While this new cellar includes a state-of-the-art lab, Jean-Louis was quick to point out, “you don’t need a lab to make great wine.” In addition, and along with the help of Jean-Louis’ wife, Erin Cannon-Chave, they’ve continued to grow their negociant label, Chave Selection, which offers fabulous bang-for-the-buck and includes both Northern and Southern Rhones. While Jean-Louis has a professor-like level of expertise with regards to Hermitage, today his passion is firmly directed at the steep slopes on the western side of the Rhone River, in the appellation of Saint Joseph. He has numerous new vineyards coming on-line, and while everything is currently blended into his estate Saint-Joseph, each of the individual terroirs are incredibly unique, and I’m sure will be bottled on their own sometime in the future.

 

With more and more of Hermitage going to larger corporations these days, it’s inspiring to see this small, family owned estate still sitting near the top of the hierarchy. Jean-Louis is still young (and has a young son who takes after him, and a daredevil daughter who takes after Erin), so the future is very bright at this estate! Looking specifically at their Hermitage, the Chaves vinify each of their individual terroirs separately, and the components are all aged in small barrels before blending and bottling without being filtered. As is the norm in Hermitage, everything is completely destemmed, and the percentage of new oak is kept to a minimum, falling in the 20-30% range. The style here is beautifully transparent, with the wines always showing the vintage characteristics clearly (which Jean-Louis breaks into a “Granite” year, or a “Sun” year). In addition, when tasted as individual components, each plot’s characteristics always shine through. While the wines have the balance and purity to dish out plenty of pleasure in their youth, they age beautifully, with Jean-Louis recommending at least 15 years of cellaring for most vintages.

Parker 100 points

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History

Jean-Louis Chave Chave is known for opting for blending Syrah from their 15 ha vineyards on the Hermitage hill. Their philosophy is against single vineyard wines since blending guarantees more complexity in the wine. In this superb wine this is clearly indicated by the tremendous complexity. Syrah from Bessards is giving rich fruit intensity and concentration to the wine while Méal more depth in flavours and bouquet. Rocoules adds finesse in structure and length along the floral tones. L’Hermite contributes peppery earthy tones and colour. Péléat gives wildness and firmness in structure whereas Diognières provides colour and the savoury tastiness. The Chave family firm has been passed from father to son since its establishment in 1481, through numerous generations, and currently it is under the direction of Jean Louis Chave, although his father Gerard still works with him. The estate is based on the right bank of the Rhone. Chave Hermitage is one of the greatest wines of the appellation, and many think of it as the top wine.

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Vineyards

While based in a small village not far from Cornas, the heart of their operation lies across the river, where they own vines in nine of the eighteen vineyards that cover the Hermitage hill. The Chaves believe the rich variety of terroir to be found there is critical when it comes to the finesse, structure and complexity they require for their blends. 

After centuries of nurture, this family have an intimate understanding of their surroundings. Those plots that do not meet their elevated standards simply aren't used. One such plot is in Les Vercandières, a thin strip at the base of the highly significant Les Bessards vineyard, which they use as a vegetable patch.

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5 different wines with 64 vintages

Highlights

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users.    or    to see wine moments from your world.

 John Kapon / CEO / Ackerr Merrall & Condit, Pro (United States)  tasted  3 wines  from  Domaine Jean-Louis Chave . In a tasting of  28 wines 

Hey there. It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you…2017 has been a great year for wine auctions, but not for my tasting notes, at least publishing them. I still have a lot of notes, I just haven’t been able to get them out. Need to work on that. With the Fall season arriving and an extremely exciting September already in my air, I finally sat down and started to dig into dozens of pieces of papers of notes, and then, of course, I had to start here.

There was one weekend in 2017 that I could not let pass me and my notes by, and that was our ‘Greatest Wines of the World Weekend,’ held this past May. Collectors came from all over the country, and even outside the country, to New York City for three extraordinary meals at New York’s finest restaurants: 11 Madison, Daniel and Per Se for three days of Bacchanalian bliss.
While this was an amazing evening in every which way (let’s not forget food and company), it was a bit of a warmup for the two sessions that would follow. It was taxi time, and in less than 24 hours we would be at Daniel, doing it all over again.

1m 30d ago

 Achim Becker / Wineterminator.com, Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  1 wines  from  Domaine Jean-Louis Chave . In a tasting of  27 wines 

A Taste of Greatness -tasting with perfect wines like Martha's Vineyards 1974, Harlan 1994, Sassicaia 1985, Pingus 1995, Yquem 1899 etc.

6m 29d ago

 Ken Gargett, Wine Writer (Australia)  tasted  1 wines  from  Domaine Jean-Louis Chave . In a tasting of  10 wines 

MY TOP 10 WINES OF THE 2016 / The difficulty for such a list is not finding ten wines; it is narrowing it down to ten.


What criteria should be used? Wines that gave the most pleasure? Highest scoring wines? Most interesting? A wine like the new Jim Barry Assyrtiko from the Clare Valley, for example. Thoroughly enjoyable but hardly going to knock the greatest in the world off their perches, but it is the first Assyrtiko made in Australia and shows what promise the variety has here. I'd have no problem including it. What of the 2001 Yquem? Every time I see it, I can’t help but fall under its spell. From the most thrilling young Yquem to an immaculate teenager, but it probably gets boring including it every time/every year. Also, I doubt that there is any serious winelover who does not know of its glories, so to include it does little. Some of the most exciting wines I saw this year were in barrel in Jerez and surrounds. But again, including them hardly helps anyone. Not as though they are being sold by the barrel.


Pekka’s extraordinary tasting in Helsinki – the Time Machine tasting and the great champagnes of the 1990s – could have filled all ten spots, such was the array of mindblowing wines. That seems unfair, so I limited myself to just one wine from any one occasion. And then I have tried for a spread of styles and countries, some old and some new.


And if you asked me to do this list tomorrow, I might well have ten different wines. However, in no particular order, here goes…

9m 22d ago

 Christer Byklum / Leading Scandinavian wine blogger, Wine Writer (Norway)  tasted  16 wines  from  Domaine Jean-Louis Chave . In a tasting of  16 wines 

1989 Chave Hermitage /Ruby, garnet rim. Scented, fruity, floral, elegant, refined, red and dark berries, complex and nuanced nose, gorgeous. Fresh acidity, ripe tannins, elegant and verging on mouthwatering, refreshing, lively and nuanced, blueberries, red berries and slightly cinnamon spicy finish, blood, hung meat, graphite minerals, hung grouse, gorgeous wine. Beautiful texture, very long indeed. Superb now but will soldier on. 96


 

11m 11d ago

 Mark Beaven , Pro (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Domaine Jean-Louis Chave . In a tasting of  118 wines 

BF Post-Bday Marathon Tasting with White Truffle Twist + Elvis - 118 wines!

11m 23d ago

 Omar Khan, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Domaine Jean-Louis Chave . In a tasting of  7 wines 

“Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle 1945 / This to me was a remarkable wine, a bit like many ‘45’s in its power and concentration. I described it as a sumptuous riot of fruit. And while those who are after some more of the La Chapelle structure may be disappointed (and I have sympathy with aspects of the assessment), this is such an effulgent expression of fruit and terroir, that I can really only cheer. Plums, orange zest, pepper and currants on the enticing nose. The palate is awash in luscious, sweet fruit, soy tinged, with melting tannins, round and soft, pure velvet past the mid palate, and it finishes with gusto, batons twirling, with layered exuberance and appealing length. 96 Points++”

1y 2m ago

 Pekka Nuikki / Founder of the Fine Wine Magazines, Pro (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Domaine Jean-Louis Chave . In a tasting of  30 wines 

“A true masterpiece by Gérard Chave - Hermitage 1990. Chave is known for opting for blending Syrah from their 15 ha vineyards on the Hermitage hill. Their philosophy is against single vineyard wines since blending guarantees more complexity in the wine. In this superb wine this is clearly indicated by the tremendous complexity. Syrah from Bessards is giving rich fruit intensity and concentration to the wine while Méal more depth in flavours and bouquet. Rocoules adds finesse in structure and length along the floral tones. L’Hermite contributes peppery earthy tones and colour. Péléat gives wildness and firmness in structure whereas Diognières provides colour and the savoury tastiness. Gérard Chave himself has compared this top vintage to 1952 and 1961.
Fine looking bottle. Decanted for two hours. This beautiful Hermitage has a deep, dark and seductive colour. On the nose amazing aromas of blackberry, vanilla, herbs and refreshing minerals. The palate was remarkably rich and long and less tannic than expected. The finish was super-long and pure with pleasant sweetness and rich, earthy flavours. This is the essence of Syrah with a long life span ahead.

1y 8m ago

 John Kapon / CEO / Ackerr Merrall & Condit, Pro (United States)  tasted  10 wines  from  Domaine Jean-Louis Chave . In a tasting of  24 wines 

“The Coche snapped, crackled and popped out of the glass with a super toasty nose, full of kernel, white earth and baked Indian breads. There was a lot of nut oil, and yellow and white fruits underneath. It had the classic, honeyed, kinky and musky Coche sex appeal, although our host found it 'a bit too fat.' The palate was smooth, rich and, indeed, fat, fat enough to bury its acidity despite a lot of slate and mineral expressions on its finish. 'Coconut' was observed and 'a touch of botrytis,' along with 'fig and sesame.' This was an unbelievably hedonistic Coche; my only question about it was its seeming lack of backside depth. Was it immature hibernation or is this a more upfront vintage of Coche? Based on rumors of the winery's infatuation with this vintage, I would have to think it is the prior ”

1y 8m ago

 John Kapon / CEO / Ackerr Merrall & Condit, Pro (United States)  tasted  8 wines  from  Domaine Jean-Louis Chave . In a tasting of  42 wines 

“The last Clos des Lambrays on our agenda was the 1937 Clos des Lambrays, which had Gil initially wondering out loud if this was the best of the four. It had a nutty, smoky, sweet nose, sweet on the browned side of things, with a great autumnal complexity. Soft and round with nice citrus, earth and tea bag flavors (stop right there Ray), I liked its bright cherry fruit but ultimately found it less complex than the previous two. 92 points”

1y 9m ago

 Georg Linde, Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  1 wines  from  Domaine Jean-Louis Chave . In a tasting of  38 wines 

“Vintage 2007 tasting. Some great wines from Marcassin, Ornellaia, Jonata etc.”

1y 10m ago

 Jan-Erik Paulson, Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  1 wines  from  Domaine Jean-Louis Chave . In a tasting of  15 wines 

“Jayer Echezeaux 1978 / Decanted for 1hour. Opaque and dark ruby-red colour. Powerful yet discreet bouquet of ripe fruit and mineral scents. Wonderfully rich, thick, earthy and concentrated wine with layer upon layer of ripe, exotic fruit. The Jayer Echezeaux is well-balanced, pure and perhaps slightly more dryer than the 1985. It has an excellent grip and a long, thrilling, fairly tannic finish. 95 points ”

1y 11m ago

 Toshi Nakamoto, Sommelier (Japan)  tasted  1 wines  from  Domaine Jean-Louis Chave . In a tasting of  12 wines 

“Colgin IX Proprietary Red Estate 2010 / Full 100 points / An intense, purplish ruby red colour. Extremely concentrated and stylish spicy nose, dominated by oak. Notes of ripe blackcurrant, fruitcake and coffee. Big and sophisticated structure comprised of medium acids, strong powdery ripe tannins and ripe berry. Long finish with undertones of spicy aromas, chocolate and coffee. Highly integrated alcohol in the mid-palate emphasised almost to the point of distraction at the close. All in all, an elegant vintage, with excellent tannic and acid structure. The current lack of intensive fruitiness means there is not a great deal of hope for long maturation potential. The wine's freshness does not do justice to the wine just yet, though. This beauty will improve within a few years and reach its perfection in an estimated ten years. ”

2y 1d ago

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