1990 Chave Hermitage

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Wine Critic Reviews for 1990 Chave Hermitage

The 1990 Hermitage is fully mature yet holding beautifully. Perfumed notes of sweet cassis and blackberry fruits, rose hips, smoked meats, and exotic spices all flow to a full-bodied, layered, seamless, flawlessly balanced Hermitage that glides over the palate with no sensation of weight or heaviness. With resolved tannins, beautiful purity, and a great finish, it’s unquestionably ready to go, yet should hold nicely for another 8-10 years.

Jeb Dunnuck | 99 JD
Also mature, yet with another level of texture and richness, the 1990 Hermitage is a profound effort that’s drinking perfectly. Voluptuous, yet classy and still refined, with awesome cassis and blackberry fruit, flowers, rose petal and hints of rendered bacon fat, it is full-bodied, textured and layered on the palate, with no hard edges and killer length on the finish. This beauty makes lights go off in my head, and as with the ’91, I’d drink bottles over the coming 4-5 years or so.

Located in the tiny village of Mauves, just south of Hermitage, lies one of the true bastilles of traditionally made wines, and there are few vinous experiences that surpass getting to taste through the different terroirs of Hermitage and Saint Joseph in Chave’s cellar. Founded in 1481, Chave has seen a long succession of generations, with Gerard Chave, who was born in 1935, slowly beginning to hand over the reins to his brilliant son, Jean-Louis (born in 1968), in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Today, the estate stays firmly planted in tradition, yet is far from resting on its laurels or reputation, completing work on a new cellar (just across the street from their existing cellar and connected via a tunnel) in 2014, and working hard on a number of new vineyard sites. While this new cellar includes a state-of-the-art lab, Jean-Louis was quick to point out, “you don’t need a lab to make great wine.” In addition, and along with the help of Jean-Louis’ wife, Erin Cannon-Chave, they’ve continued to grow their negociant label, Chave Selection, which offers fabulous bang-for-the-buck and includes both Northern and Southern Rhones. While Jean-Louis has a professor-like level of expertise with regards to Hermitage, today his passion is firmly directed at the steep slopes on the western side of the Rhone River, in the appellation of Saint Joseph. He has numerous new vineyards coming on-line, and while everything is currently blended into his estate Saint-Joseph, each of the individual terroirs are incredibly unique, and I’m sure will be bottled on their own sometime in the future. With more and more of Hermitage going to larger corporations these days, it’s inspiring to see this small, family owned estate still sitting near the top of the hierarchy. Jean-Louis is still young (and has a young son who takes after him, and a daredevil daughter who takes after Erin), so the future is very bright at this estate! Looking specifically at their Hermitage, the Chaves vinify each of their individual terroirs separately, and the components are all aged in small barrels before blending and bottling without being filtered. As is the norm in Hermitage, everything is completely destemmed, and the percentage of new oak is kept to a minimum, falling in the 20-30% range. The style here is beautifully transparent, with the wines always showing the vintage characteristics clearly (which Jean-Louis breaks into a “Granite” year, or a “Sun” year). In addition, when tasted as individual components, each plot’s characteristics always shine through. While the wines have the balance and purity to dish out plenty of pleasure in their youth, they age beautifully, with Jean-Louis recommending at least 15 years of cellaring for most vintages.

Robert Parker | 99 RP
This still very rich and alluring, with a core of dark roasted plum, black currant and blackberry fruit that still has an unctuous feel. There are additional floral and black tea notes, flashes of bergamot and clove, and a lingering tarry edge that supports the finish. Still throws a long shadow. Going in, I would have picked this as the wine to beat from the older vintages, but the ’91 prevails in overall grace.—Non-blind Chave vertical (June 2012). Drink now through 2020. 2,500 cases made.

Wine Spectator | 98 WS
Chave’s 1990 Hermitage is simply magnificent from the moment it is poured. A dark, translucent ruby, the 1990 hits the palate with a rush of bold red-fleshed fruits. Hints of herb, smoke, cedar, dried flowers, tobacco and leather open up with time in the glass, but above all else, the 1990 is superbly polished and silky, with exceptional balance and an alluring, sensual personality that makes it nearly impossible to put the glass down. This is an especially fine bottle of the 1990 and a real thrill to drink. It simply does not get too much better than this. Readers lucky enough to own well-stored bottles can look forward to another 15-20 years of pure pleasure.

Antonio Galloni | 97 AG
(Hermitage- Domaine Jean-Louis Chave) The 1990 Chave, in notable contrast to the ’90 La Chapelle, is a brilliant bottle of wine. There was a time four or five years ago when this vintage of Chave seemed to have a little bit of pruniness developing, but with further bottle age the wine has snapped back into focus and offers a stunningly pure and transcendental aromatic profile. The majestic bouquet soars from the glass in a mélange of black raspberries, cassis, black olives, hot stones, tobacco smoke, earth and a touch of La Mission-like chipotle pepper. On the palate the wine is full-bodied, pure and minerally, with fine focus, great depth in the mid-palate, ripe tannins, solid acidity, and great length and grip on the profound finish. This is only a few years away from its absolute apogee, but it should drink at its peak for at least another three decades. A great Chave (Drink between 2010-2040).

John Gilman | 96+ JG

Wine Details on 1990 Chave Hermitage

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Producer Domaine Jean-Louis Chave: There are old families in the Rhone Valley and then there are really old families. The Chave family is one of the oldest names in the history of winemaking. Today the label reads Domaine JL Chave but the inception of their family trade can be traced back to 1481. In fact, the neck label commemorates their heritage with the inscription, “Vignerons de Pere en Fils depuis 1481” which translates to “vine growers from father to son since 1481.”

The Chave family began cultivating vineyards in northern Rhone in the appellation of what we know today as Saint Joseph. After the devastating impact of the phylloxera crisis that crippled most of Europe’s vineyards in the late 19th century, the family moved to Hermitage. Sixteen generations of unbreakable lineage later, the family remains in control of the land and business to this day. The infamous Hermitage producer is now in the loyal hands of Jean Louis Chave; handed down by his father, Gerard and is continuing the family legacy of producing, perhaps the finest Hermitage in the world.

Chave owns 14 hectares in Hermitage, 10 of which are planted to Syrah and are used to produce their red wines. The remaining 4 hectares are planted to 80% Marsanne and 20% Roussanne, which are more than 60 years of age and used to produce their Hermitage Blanc. Along with Jaboulet and Chapoutier, the Chave family owns the largest percentage of planted hectares in the entire appellation of Hermitage. The vines are dispersed over the Hill of Hermitage in coveted lieu-dits such as Bessards, L’Hermite, Les Rocoules, Peleat and Meal. Each vineyard has its own unique terroir but is mostly composed of rocky soils ranging from granite, limestone, clay and limestone. The infamous lieux-dit of Bessards has a terroir of steep granite hillside soils with some of the vines being 50 years old. The parcels located in Les Rocoules and Peleat have vines even older at 85 years of age.

Though the domaine is in possession of some of the greatest terroir in northern Rhone in coveted parcels, the family has never released a “single vineyard.” The beauty and complexity of each vintage is found in the mastery of blending. A rigorous selection process from each parcel is conducted and is added to the final blend. Chave produces Hermitage, Hermitage Cuvee Cathelin, and Hermitage Blanc from their 14-hectare estate and each is in competition for greatest in the appellation each vintage. Chave also has a negociant line named JL Chave Selection which sources grapes from Crozes-Hermitage, Saint-Joseph, and Cotes-Du-Rhone.

As award-winning wine writer and columnist, Andrew Jefford wrote, “The Chave line…could make a fair claim to be France’s winemaking royal family: in no other of France’s greatest terroirs is the largest individual landholder so deeply rooted in time and place, so supremely competent, and so modest a custodian of insights and craftsmanship of the past.”
Region Rhone: While the Northern Rhone produces only about 5% of all wine coming out of the Rhone Valley, the quality of these bottles is not to be underestimated. The terroir in this region is heavenly for growing Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne or Rousanne - the only permitted grapes in the AOC. Picture this - the Rhone flows through the valley like an azure thread piercing the landscape, a reflection of the dreamy skies hovering above the vineyards, ready to produce rainfall at a moment's notice. The rocky soil of the steep, almost surreal hillsides provides a bountiful feast for the grapevine roots. The flavors and texture of Northern Rhone wines tell you everything you need to know as soon as your lips touch the elixir, like a whisper in the vigorous valley winds

As per the Southern Rhone wine, it is like taking a plunge into a whirlpool of juicy flavor. Every sip explodes forward like a crashing tsunami, bathing your tastebuds in delicious aromas of prune, chocolate, grass, and black fruit. The wines are so compelling that it can be hard to drink them casually at a social event without getting lost in their intricate textures and emotional depths. Let's set sail together, and drink deep from these luxurious bottles with our friends and loved ones.
Country France: Wine is the lifeblood that courses through the country of France, pulsing with vigorous pride and determination. Viticulture is not just a hobby or an occupation in France; it is a passion, a cherished tradition that has been passed down through generations of wine stained hands. Winemaking is a beloved art that has been ingrained in the culture, an aptitude instilled in sons by fathers and the hallmark for which France’s reputation was built, allowing it to be renowned as, arguably, the most important wine producing country in the world.

For centuries, France has been producing wines of superior quality and in much greater quantity than any other country in the world. It boasts some of the most impressive wine regions, coveted vineyards and prestigious wines on earth. The regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone, Sauternes and Champagne have become the benchmark, for which others aspire to become. Legendary producers such as Chateaux Margaux, Domaine De La Romanee Conti, Chapoutier, d’Yquem and Dom Perignon are idolized world-wide.

France has stamped its name on nearly every style of wine, from the nectar-like sweet Sauternes to hedonistic Chateauneuf Du Papes classic Bordeaux and Burgundy, to its sparkling dominance in Champagne. Many of the most infamous grape varietals in the world, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay originated in France and are not only beloved, but utilized in the creation of some of the greatest wines on earth. French wine production commands the attention of the wine market year after year. With over 860,000 hectares under vine, and numbers close to 50 million hectoliters of wine produced annually, France dominates the market and sets the standard for not only product quality, but also quantity.

France’s many contributions to the world of wine have been absolutely indispensable. The country is the originator of the term “Premier Cru,” coined the term Terroir (a French term so complex there is no literal translation) and has laid the blueprint for a structured appellation system, which others have implemented in their own countries. French vineyard techniques and winemaking practices are mimicked world-wide. California vintners have been replicating Rhone style wines for decades, South America has adopted the French varietal of Malbec and countries around the world are imitating Burgundian styled Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

With vast diversity in terroir, France is home to some of the most hospitable winegrowing locations on earth. The combination of topography, geology, climate, rainfall and even the amount of sunlight combined with the long historical tradition of winegrowing and making, has allowed the vintners of France to not only hone their skills, but learn from nature to create a product that like the world in which it resides… is very much alive.

Type of Wine Hermitage: Hermitage provides a bouquet of scents and flavors with a texture that cannot be fully deciphered. Expect to be blown away by an orchestral composition of primal blackberries and black raspberries, earthy minerals, playful spice and a thick bassline of smoke. Their immense aging potential makes them ideal candidates for hoarding in your cellar!
Varietal Shiraz/Syrah: Something magical occurred when two ancient French grapes procreated and the varietal of Syrah entered the world of winegrowing. The exact time period of its inception is still undetermined; however, the origin of Syrah’s parentage confirms it was birthed in the Rhone Valley. DNA testing performed by UC Davis has indicated that Syrah is the progeny of the varietals Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche, both of Rhone origin. Syrah dominates its native homeland of Northern Rhone and has become one of the most popular grape varietals in the world.

Syrah, Shiraz and Petite Sirah have often been confused and misunderstood, some consumers believing them to all be the same grape, while others thinking the opposite. Petite Sirah is actually the offspring of Syrah and Peloursin and though related, is an entirely different grape variety. Its official name is Durif, for the name of the French nurseryman who first propagated the varietal in the 1880s; it is called Petite Sirah in California (due to the resemblance of Syrah, but smaller berries). Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape. Producers in Australia have been labelling Syrah as “Shiraz” since James Busby first introduced the varietal to the continent. The Scottish viticulturist brought Syrah from France to Australia in the middle of the 18th century and labelled the cuttings as “Sycras” and “Ciras,” which may have led to the naming. Most California vintners label their bottlings as Syrah and of course in French style and tradition, the name of the village or area the grape is cultivated dictates the label name.

The Syrah grape is at home in Northern Rhone where the climate is cool and the terroir is filled with gravel, schist, limestone, iron, granite and sandy soils. It thrives on rocky, hilly terrain with a southern exposure, due to its need for sunlight. Syrah is a very vigorous grape with a spreading growth habit. The berries are small to medium oval shaped blue-black and tend to shrivel when ripe.

Today, Syrah is one of the most popular and widely planted grape varietals in the world, covering almost 190,000 hectares across the earth’s surface. It is the only red grape variety permitted by AOC regulations in the appellations of Hermitage and Cote-Rotie, where it has breathed life into some of the most tremendous wines on the planet. Languedoc-Roussilon has the most surface area planted in France with 43,200 hectares dedicated to Syrah. The varietal is used for blending in Southern Rhone, Provence and even Bordeaux. Syrah has spread worldwide from Australia to California and South Africa to Spain creating the ‘New World’ hype of the varietal. Since the 1990’s, Syrah winegrowing and production has increased exponentially; for example, in 1958 there were a mere 2,000 hectares planted in France. By 2005 that number increased to over 68,000 hectares and today it is well over 70,000. The same holds true for California, Australia and other ‘New World’ producers that have jumped “all in.” World-wide there are approximately 190,000 hectares of Syrah currently being cultivated.

The allure of Syrah has taken the world by storm, but is important to note where the hype began. Long before Syrah was being stamped with ‘New World’ or of ‘cult status,’ the tremendous quality of Hermitage was being written about in Thomas Jefferson’s diary. Today, the grape variety can be grown, fashioned, named and enjoyed in a myriad of ways, but the quality of Syrah grape remains the same – incredible.

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