This is still a work in progress as I upload tasting notes and wine labels from as far as 1999... Check back once in a while to get the updates.

October 24, 2011

MNSC Rhone Trip Day 2: Jean-Louis Chave

Visit to Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, where we were received by Jean-Louis Chave.

This was a totally amazing visit, and Jean-Louis spent a long time talking to us about the philosophy of his family.  They have been vignerons since 1481, and there have been 16 generations of winemakers in the family.  He is the 14th of 16th Jean-Louis' in the family.  This family is simply on a different plane when it comes to time... He mentioned that they had "recently" relocated their cellar to the present location, and when we asked him how long ago it was, he calmly replied: "around 200 years ago."

The Chaves are at one polar end of the philosophical spectrum when it comes to Hermitage.  To them, the most important thing is the cuvée, or making their "generic" Hermitage.  They want to focus on making this wine as perfect as possible, instead of making many different single vineyard cuvées to express the individual terroirs.

This is also expressed when one looks at the wine labels.  The biggest word on the label is Hermitage, not the name of the domaine.  They are clearly very humble... there's not a whole lot of ego here.  He talked about the difference between the vignerons - many of whom are simple farmers - versus the businessmen of Bordeaux who are more intent on creating big, globally recognized brand names.  Jean-Louis is a farmer - clearly evident from the simple way he dresses to the rough and dirty hand he reached out for the handshake.

They only use 10% new oak, because they want the wines to express the character of the soil.  For white Hermitage, the focus is on the texture of the wine.

2010 Chave Hermitage blanc, before blending, from Le Péléat - lots of toasty oak, very intense and ripe.  Spicy on the palate as well as the finish.  Made with fruit from vines that are a century old, planted on limestone and sand.

2010 Chave Hermitage blanc, before blending, second parcel - an even bigger nose of toast.  Much richer, rounder and fatter.

2010 Chave Hermitage blanc, before blending, third parcel - a little more balanced than the last two.  Acidity was a little higher.

2009 Chave Hermitage Blanc - perhaps a hint of sulfur in the nose?  Minerals very prominent.  Wine was a little hard because it had just been bottled.  Very nicely balanced, very soft and supple on the palate with a very long finish.  Alcohol was a little high, though, and I felt it in the back of my throat for a long time.

1995 Chave Hermitage Blanc - honey, tangerine, candied clementine, straw and apricot.  Nose was definitely oxidized but lovely and beautiful.  Very round on the palate.  Alcohol was pretty high, and I felt it on my tongue.

2010 Chave Saint-Joseph Rouge - granite and cold fruit showed through, with potpourri, forest, a little leather and a hint of floral notes.

2010 Chave Hermitage rouge, before blending, from Le Péléat - made with fruit from 80-year old vines planted on sand.  Nose was pungent, still with lots of obvious skin contact, then showed animal and floral notes.  Still pretty tannic.

2010 Chave Hermitage rouge, before blending, from Le Beaume - more elegant and fragrant, a slight pungent whiff but more floral later, with mint and potpourri.

2010 Chave Hermitage rouge, before blending, from Le Méal - big and meaty, peppery, pungent and rubbery.  Very ripe and sweet on the palate.

2010 Chave Hermitage rouge, before blending, from Les Bessards - this is their largest holding in Hermitage and forms the backbone, the soul of the Chave Hermitage.  Normally the fruit for Cuvée Cathelin comes from Les Bessards.  Nose was more restrained, but the body was more structured with more tannins.

2009 Chave Hermitage, pre-blend consisting mostly of Le Méal - incredibly soft and luscious.  Beautiful.

2009 Chave Hermitage, pre-blend #2 - this has more Les Bessards, which meant it was a little more tight and structured.  Smoky.

2005 Chave Hermitage Rouge - mostly Les Bessards.  This was classic Chave, with a big nose of animal and very meaty.  Exotic spices like licorice and a little smoky.  So accessible right now... soft and silky on the palate.  Still tannic on the finish.

1991 Chave Hermitage Rouge - Le Péléat was important in the blend this year.  A floral and explosive nose, sweet, meaty, exotic spices, plummy and ripe.  Very smooth on the palate, with a little tea and minerals.

1978 Chave Hermitage Rouge - what an unbelievable treat!  An elegant and beautiful wine, with leather, lovely fruit like plum, exotic spices, coffee and smoke.  I just can't believe that Jean-Louis so generously shared this bottle with us!

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