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.
Vineyard Location: Bessards: The backbone of Chave’s Hermitage year in and out. One of the most famous vineyards in the AOC, Bessards is based on steep, granite hillside soils and provides a strong mineral note to the wine.
Beaumes: A long, narrow vineyard running north to south on the midpoint of the hill, Beaumes tends to produce lighter, more fruit-forward Syrah.
Hermite: This vineyard is located at the very top of the hill of Hermitage and surrounds the Chapel located there. It has a range of soil types, including granite and loess. Chave often vini es different lots from with in Hermite separately.
Péléat: A monopole, with stony, sandy soil, Péléat provides wines that are rmer and more complex.
Méal: A fairly large vineyard just to the east of Bessards. Méal is based on looser, alluvial soils and produces richer, riper wines with plenty of structure.
Vini cation: Generally 100% destemmed, as the Hermitage is meant to be about the expression of the individual vineyards and soils and Jean-Louis believes that stems have a tendency to level out the differences. Fermentation in wood tonneaux and stainless steel tanks. Aged in barriques for 30 months.
Parker 98 points: Gerard Chave has made many great wines, but his 1990s are extra special. Now that the 1990 Hermitage (except for Chave's new luxury cuvee) has been bottled, Chave, not one to extol the virtues of his wines, claims that it must be considered to be among his greatest. Keep in mind that the Chave family has been making Hermitage since 1481. Gerard Chave claims that the only other vintages to possess such extraordinary concentration and raw material were the 1952 and 1961.
The 1990 boasts an opaque dark ruby/purple-color. Since bottling the nose has closed, but super-sweet, over-ripe aromas of cassis and minerals emerge with swirling. In the mouth, the wine is massive, with an animal-like, peppery, powerful Syrah character brilliantly displayed in a multidimensional, multilayered fashion. The tannin level is high and the finish is exquisite. While not as flashy or as flamboyant as Jaboulet's 1990 Hermitage-La Chapelle, this wine will need 10-15 years of cellaring, which suggests to me that readers who can already claim 50 or more years of longevity may want to carefully consider the wisdom of purchasing this wine. It will prove to be a monumental Hermitage, but certainly over the next 15-20 years the 1989 (because of less tannin and more opulent richness) will probably outshine it. Nevertheless, if you are young, have a good cellar, and adore the taste and personality of Syrah, these two vintages are reference points for not only the Syrah grape, but for the wines of Hermitage. I tasted both the 1990 and 1989 (readers may remember I rated this wine 96) several times in September, and my best guess on anticipated maturity for the 1989 would be between 1998-2030 and for the 1990, between 2005-2040+.
Long-time Chave enthusiasts will probably be astonished to learn that a tiny quantity of a luxury cuvee of 1990 red Hermitage has been produced. It is still aging in small new oak casks waiting for Chave to decide what to call it and when to bottle it. I cannot say it is better than his 1990 red Hermitage, but it will be different since it has been aged in new oak. This has given it a slightly different aromatic and flavor profile than Chave's normal cuvee of Hermitage.
Average Bottle Price
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