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1997 Chave Hermitage (White)

1997 Chave Hermitage (White)

96 RP

From the critics:

99 DEC

95 RP

94+ VM

Critic Reviews

Tasted with Jean-Louis Chave in his cellars in Mauves. This vintage included a proportion of botrytised grapes, a growing rarity these days on Hermitage due to the increasingly hot, dry growing seasons. It brings a touch of white rose to the almond and marzipan aromas. It’s at a perfect stage to drink now - honeyed but fresh still. Quince, honeycomb and butterscotch on the palate, all lifted by a fresh lemon verbena note. Rich, balanced, just so classic and so delicious. A wine you can wrap yourself in like a duvet. Drinking Window 2020 - 2030.

Decanter | 99 DEC
A vintage Jean Louis thinks is best for drinking today, the 1997 Hermitage Blanc is elegant and silky, with the classic minerality, honeyed citrus, orange blossom and licorice characteristics these wines always show at maturity. Medium to full-bodied, balanced, and seamless, it still has plenty of mid-palate depth and should continue drinking nicely for another 5-10 years, but don’t hold off too long here.

Robert Parker Wine Advocate
| 95 RP
Complex, pure aromas of peach, apple, honey, acacia flower, linden and hawthorn. Offers great richness allied with floral lift. Almost miraculously elegant and not at all heavy. Finishes with outstanding persistence-and surprisingly dry given the wine opulence. This actually finished with a bit over two grams per liter residual sugar, said Chave, who added that it might well have turned out topheavy had he fermented with commercial yeasts (the less efficient wild yeasts tend to produce more glycerine and a bit less alcohol). An extraordinary white Hermitage.

Vinous Media | 94+ VM

Wine Details for 1997 Chave Hermitage (White)

Type of Wine Rhone White
Varietal Marsanne : Northern Rhone is home to some of the most fascinating and awe-inspiring wine-producing grapes on earth. It is arguably, the hedonistic capital of the wine-world. While the heady and delectable Syrah-based wines of Cote-Rotie have certainly captivated their audience among red wine consumers, the white grape varietals of Northern Rhone have an image all their own for producing sexy, seductive and mouth-watering whites. Among the varietals responsible for such allure is Marsanne. This white grape, along with its relative, Roussanne, have been producing wines of ethereal quality for centuries and recognized as being some of the greatest whites in the world.

The history of Marsanne remains somewhat of a mystery, though it is believed to have originated in the town for which it is named, Marsanne, near Montelimar, in the northern Rhone Valley. Marsanne-based wines (along with Roussanne) from Hermitage gained notoriety during the 17th Century, being considered among the world’s finest. Thomas Jefferson, Ambassador to France, third president of the United States and wine connoisseur, claimed white Hermitage to be “...the first wine in the world without a single exception.”

Together, Marsanne and Roussanne form the core of white wines from Hermitage, Crozes Hermitage, Saint-Joseph and Saint-Peray. Marsanne possesses good weight and structure, adds depth and rich texture but lacks any depth of perfume, which explains its long standing Rhone Valley tradition of being blending with is more aromatic relative, Roussanne. Though It is rarely seen apart from Roussanne (to which is shares a parent-offspring relationship) due to the incredible cooperative nature the two varietals serve one another, Marsanne has long suffered the stigma of being the inferior grape. Recently, however, the roles have reversed and Marsanne now occupies more vineyard space in the Northern Rhone than its aromatic stablemate, which is fussier in the vineyard, requiring warmer temperatures and is susceptible to a slew of vineyard diseases. The passing of the torch is not a completely accurate statement, though Marsanne is enjoying its deserved fame, as some of the greatest producers in the world, such as Chapoutier, are creating masterpieces from 100% Marsanne grapes.

Marsanne thrives in terroirs composed of clay, granite, chalk and limestone soils, which are typical of those found in the Northern Rhone Valley. It is perfectly suited to the hilly terrain of Hermitage, where it reaches its best expression. The cooler climate of the region allows the varietal to produce extremely complex and age-worthy wines. The plant, itself, demands a great amount of time to mature and bear fruit, but is one of the longest living, with some of its oldest vines being over 100 years of age.

The berries are small in size with a skin that combines gold, green and brown hues. They grow in loose bunches, which allows natural ventilation and acts as a deterrent against bunch rot and other vineyard hazards. The vines are quite vigorous and thrive in the “poor” soil composition of the region, needing little rain; however it can be a bit demanding of water during the hotter summer months. Harvesting is time-sensitive and must be completed promptly otherwise the grapes lose much needed acidity (as the grapes are considered low to moderate).

Wines produced from Marsanne have aromas of roasted nuts, pears, white peaches, honeydew melon, spices and wildflower, such as honeysuckle, with flavors of honey, chamomile and vanilla custard. They can develop an enthralling mouthfeel with a silky, exotic, oily texture. Marsanne-based wines drink well young, but time spent in bottle allows for notes of hazelnut and almond and the honey tones deepen to caramel. The wines are age-worthy and can be cellared for a decade or more. Although dry styles of Marsanne are more common, some of the very finest examples of the varietal are the sweet Vin de Paille wines, otherwise known as “straw wine.” This labor intensive method entails the grapes being dried on straw mats in the sun, allowing them to become shriveled, raisin-like and extremely concentrated, before being pressed and fermented. The result is a honey-like nectar, sweet dessert wine and is highly touted as being one of the greatest wines in the world.

Eighty percent of the world’s Marsanne is found in France, which should not be surprising. Outside its native homeland of the Rhone Valley, Marsanne has found second home in Australia. The varietal arrived to the southern continent in the 1860s and has done quite well in the terroir and climate “down under.” California is seeing more production from the white varietal, most notably from Tablas Creek, which is considered one of the more Rhone inspired producers, or “Rhone Ranger.” The world is becoming more cognizant of the varietal to which it is greatly deserved.
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.

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.
Subregion Northern Rhone
Appellation Hermitage


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.”

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