Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage 2013
94 - 97 Points
Still in barrel at the time of this tasting, the 2013 Hermitage will certainly be one of the wines of the vintage. Offering classic, granite-induced notes of smoked dark fruits, graphite, searing minerality and bouquet garni, this sensational Hermitage has medium to full-bodied richness, beautiful mid-palate density and building tannin, all with the freshness and purity of the vintage. Reminiscent of a more backwards, tight, focused and granite-driven year (I asked Jean-Louis if there was a similar vintage he could recall, he commented that he couldn't think of one), it has solid ripeness in its aromas and flavors, good sweetness in its tannin, and a great finish. I suspect it will need 7-8 years of cellaring and keep for 20-25 years or more.
The reference point for classic Hermitage and Saint Joseph, Gérard and Jean-Louis Chave have just completed construction on a new cellar, which is located just across the street from their old cellar in Mauves. They’ve connected the two via a tunnel under the road, and the new cellar is quickly on its way to looking just like the old cellar -- with the same type of mold, smell and feel. Don’t underestimate this, as cellar conditions contribute plenty to the final wine (and style of the estate), and I always have a touch of trepidation when a well-known estate moves into a new cellar. I have no such concerns here. Looking at recent vintages, Jean-Louis calls 2014 a “friendly vintage” and goes on to comment that the year started beautifully, but everything changed in July with cooler, wetter and more volatile weather. However, September was beautiful. I was able to go through all of the different Hermitage parcels and they showed surprising density and tannic grip in what’s generally an easy going, mid-weight and charming vintage. Still, it’s certainly a more approachable, fleshy wine than the masculine, granite-laced 2013. Still not yet bottled (and there’s no set date for it to be bottled either), the 2013 Hermitage should surpass the 2014, although it’s in a more, as Jean-Louis would say, 'granite-style' and will require cellaring to show at its best. As I’ve written now for a couple years, this estate continues to invest heavily in Saint Joseph and are developing new vineyards as well as replanting old ones. Similar to his Hermitage release, I was able to taste the different vineyards that go into his Saint Joseph, and while he continues to release a single cuvee, I’ve no doubt there will be multi-single vineyards in the not too distant future.
2022 - 2038