2010 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave,Hermitage, Rouge, Bottle (750ml) RP100/WS99

Domaine Jean-Louis Chave: Generational winemaking since 1481

If we compile a list of the greatest wine producers in France, it would be incomplete without mentioning names like Domaine de la Romanee Conti, Petrus, Chateau Lafite, and Domaine Jean-Louis Chave. The latter of these esteemed estates, Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, stands out with a history dating back to 1481. While most wineries have seen changes in ownership and practices over time, the Chave family proudly continues their legacy, now managed by the 16th generation. To put this into perspective, the Chave family has been crafting wine in the Northern Rhone region even before Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas. This remarkable continuity spans over 500 years, making them a true icon of winemaking heritage. The Chave family has become synonymous with traditional and classical Hermitage, becoming the gold standard for all singular expressions of Hermitage.

16 Generations and Counting

Their deeply-rooted connection to one of France's most renowned terroirs is an anomaly, unrivaled by any other single family. Nowhere else will you find a single family so profoundly connected to their place and time. Renowned for producing the finest Syrah expressions worldwide, the Chave family proudly showcases the phrase "Vignerons de Pere en Fils depuis 1481" on their label, which translates to vine growers from father to son since 1481, a distinction held by only the most treasured winemaking family in France.

In 1481, the Chave family began their winemaking journey in what is now Saint Joseph. While their history prior to the Chave family’s arrival in Hermitage is less documented, their acquisition of the vineyards on this prestigious Northern Rhone hill in 1865 marked a significant milestone. Despite facing Europe's phylloxera epidemic in the late 19th century, the Chave family persevered and continues to produce some of the world's most sought-after Syrah.

Today, the esteemed domaine is under the expert guidance of 16th-generation winemaker, Jean-Louis Chave. After completing his oenology degree at UC Davis, Jean-Louis meticulously learned the subtle nuances of his family's winemaking practice and joined his father, Gerard, in 1992. Notably, at the age of 25, he ambitiously restored a collection of abandoned terraced vineyards on St. Joseph's rugged terrain, showcasing his unwavering passion for his craft. Jean-Louis' deep-rooted connection to the Northern Rhone terroir, combined with his family's expertise, has propelled the Chave estate to a regal status among the world's most respected wines.

The Essence of Hermitage

Despite their rise in popularity and critical acclaim, Jean-Louis Chave remains humble, passionately safeguarding his family's legacy. A down-to-earth farmer at heart, he views himself as a shepherd of his vineyard, focusing on maximizing its potential while embracing the essence of the terroir.  As Jean-Louis eloquently puts it, "we do not make Syrah, we make Hermitage," reflecting his profound appreciation for the land.

What distinguishes Chave from other producers in the Northern Rhone is their mastery of blending seven single vineyards into one cuvee. Embracing tradition, the Chave family has been combining their highly regarded single-vineyard sites since their since their earliest days in Hermitage. Their unique blend, varying from vintage to vintage, skillfully highlights the very best of Hermitage, a distinction that sets them apart from many producers who focus on showcasing individual vineyards.

Harmonizing Terroirs

Their renowned Hermitage Rouge draws from the prestigious vineyards of Bessards, L'Hermite, Peleat, Meal, Beaume, Diognieres, and Vercandiered, each contributing its distinct character to the final blend. Bessards adds strength and character, while Le Meal brings flesh and richness. The average age of these vineyards is around 50 years, with certain plots reaching an impressive 85 years.

The source of their acclaimed Hermitage Rouge is the prestigious collection of vineyards known as Bessards, L'Hermite, Peleat, Meal, Beaume, Diognieres, and Vercandiered. Each vineyard contributes distinct characteristics to the final blend—strength and character from Bessards, flesh and richness from Le Meal. The blending of these vineyards, with an average age of around 50 years and some reaching 85 years, are a testament to time-honored winemaking.

Crafting the Finest Syrah

The winemaking process at Domaine Jean-Louis Chave is meticulous. Each parcel is vinified and aged separately before blending, with partial destemming, and occasionally up to 50% of stems retained during ripe years. After fermentation, the wines rest in 228-liter oak barrels for approximately 18 months, with about 10% new oak in each vintage. The final cuvee is crafted with care and allowed to rest for 60 to 90 days before bottling.

Jean-Louis Chave ardently advocates aging his wines before consumption. For those seeking the full expression of Chave's craftsmanship, he recommends a minimum of 15 years of bottle aging. This extended period allows the wines to develop into the critically acclaimed masterpieces they are known for, displaying purity of fruit, elegance, power, and finesse.

The Time-Honored Domaine

What truly sets the Chave domaine apart is its comprehensive history and ancestral legacy that spans over a quarter of the length of modern human history. The knowledge and expertise accumulated through generations have enabled the Chave family to produce wines with unrivaled precision and complexity. As renowned critic Robert Parker fittingly states, "Jean-Louis remains one of the most humble and straightforward winemakers out there, and his wines deserve a place in any wine lover’s cellar."

If you consider yourself a true collector or connoisseur, your beloved cellar should undoubtedly house a bottle of Chave Hermitage. These extraordinary wines are a testament to the timeless pursuit of winemaking perfection, carrying with them the rich legacy of the Chave family's enduring dedication to their craft.

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