Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage 2012
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Domaine Jean-Louis Chave is one of France's finest, most famous and most traditional estates. This family-owned producer of noble Hermitage wines of the Rhone, both red and white, continue the historic beliefs of past generations while maintaining an open mind for the future. Vignerons de Père en Fils depuis 1481 (vine growers from father to son since 1481) is proudly inscribed on every bottle. ‘Our role is to ensure the story continues, to act as a relay and in so doing not make any radical changes,’ explains Jean-Louis Chave. Jean-Louis’ father Gérard Chave took over the domaine in the early 1970s. He forged the international reputation of Chave Hermitage and has expanded the estate to become the largest landowners on the hill outside of the large négociants Chapoutier and Paul Jaboulet Aîné, and the Cave de Tain l’Hermitage. They also own vineyards in St-Joseph. It was in the appellation now known as St-Joseph that the Chave family first cultivated the vine on hillslopes in the Ardèche commune of Lemps, back in the 15th century. When phylloxera hit in the 19th century they were obliged to move down to the Rhône valley to diversify into fruit farming, basing themselves in the village of Mauves where the cellars are today. It was at this time that an ancestor decided to cross the Rhône river and lay claim to parcels of land on the hill of Hermitage.
Jean-Louis Chave joined his father in 1992, having studied in the US, first obtaining an MBA in business and finance at Hartford University then following a course in oenology at the University of California, Davis. ‘The experience helped me appreciate what I have and to recognize the domaine as a great tradition that must continue to live and evolve,’ he says. The work in the terraced vineyards and quality of grapes at the domaine are keys to the excellence of the wines. Working each vineyard independently and encouraging organic convictions are Jean-Louis Chave's goals. The average age of the vines is quite old– 60 years for the Marsanne and Roussanne and 35 years for the Syrah. The parcels of vines are located in eight different sites, or climats, on the hill of Hermitage, each with a different aspect and soil type, giving varying nuances to the wine. ‘Blending grapes from these different sites is part of the history of Hermitage,’ says Jean-Louis.'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'
- Robert Parker
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VinousPresented as components from four different barrels: #1, from Beaume: Exotic scents of candied licorice, dark berries and smoky Indian spices. Fleshy and broad on entry, then tighter in the middle, displaying superb depth to its bitter cherry and floral pastille flavors. #2, from Peleat: Explosive red fruit and potpourri aromas, with a bright mineral overtone. Silky and sweet, offering vibrant raspberry and cherry compote flavors and a touch of bitter chocolate. The red fruit note echoes strongly on the back half. #3, from Meal: Fleshier and rounder than the first two components, offering plush dark berry and violet flavors that coat the palate. Chewy tannins build on the finish and fold smoothly into the wine's dense fruit. #4, from Bessards: Emphatic mineral and dark berry aromas pick up a sexy floral note and a hint of cola. Sappy, penetrating and sharply focused, displaying an impressive array of red fruit and floral qualities and strong finishing spiciness. Jean-Louis Chave told me he thinks this wine will be "classic Hermitage with an emphasis on fruit, not structure, but not lacking in structure at all--just compared to, say, 2010 and 2005. 95-97
Wine Advocate Looking at the 2012 Hermitage, which is still resting in barrels and getting ready to be bottled, it's a much more classic, easy to read Hermitage that has lots of ripe, sweet fruit in its full-bodied, concentrated, textured profile. It has copious sweet blackberry and cassis fruit, violet and serious granite-like minerality, superb mid-palate depth and a focused, structured finish. It's a beautiful, classy 2012 that will have 20-25+ years of longevity. 94-97
International Wine CellarTasted from its final three component tanks on the same day that the final blend was to be made: #1: Ripe cherry and dark berries on the nose and in the mouth. Fleshy, broad and smoky, finishing with strong cling. #2: Spice-accented cherry and cassis aromas, along with suggestions of cola and candied licorice. Sappy and seamless, displaying excellent back-end focus and lift. #3): Sexy, highly perfumed red fruit and floral pastille scents and flavors, with a peppery element adding urgency. Silky and fine-grained, showing excellent closing thrust and length. The ultimate wine should offer a suave blend of richness and vivacity, with textbook dark fruit, spice and floral Syrah character and the balance to age. 94-95
Wine SpectatorBlack tea and warm ganache notes frame a core of steeped plum, blackberry and boysenberry fruit. Rather restrained at first, this picks up steam through the finish, as a well-embedded graphite edge emerges, letting the dark fruit and anise accents linger beautifully. A poised, polished, understated and precise version that will age deceptively well. Best from 2018 through 2027.