Jaboulet - Northern Rhone legend back to its best

Ask any group of winemakers what their most memorable wines are, bottles that have stood out or helped inspire them, Jaboulet La Chappelle Hermitage is often on the list, along with the good and great from regions like Bordeaux and Burgundy.

The 1961 is touted to be one of the greatest Rhone reds of all time. The 1990 scored 100 points when 100 points really was an unusually high score. Sadly for a period, after the untimely death of the late great Gerard Jaboulet in 1997, the quality at this hallowed domaine slipped and it was some time before we began to see the quality rise again to the levels of its hay day.

The catalyst for the change was the acquisition of the estate by the Frey family in 2003. Work to shift Jaboulet back in to prominence began immediately with conversion to Biodynamic practices in the vineyards. A vigorous regime of vineyard rejuvenation over a number of years with significant investment of both time and money was poured in to bringing their sites back up to the highest standards.

Similarly a shift in the winery and a refocus on quality began. These kinds of changes don’t yield immediate results, it takes time for the vines to regain their vigour and years, as well as a lot of money, to bring the standards of vinification and elevage up to such high standards.

Watching this metamorphosis has been really exciting for those who know how spectacular these wines can be when given ample opportunity to perform to their potential. Under the Frey family the Jaboulet domaine has once again returned to its former glory and the wines over the last few vintages have been superb. Whilst I really enjoyed the 2015’s and 2016’s – The new release of the 2017’s is the strongest set for at least 20 years from this legendary producer. A genuinely remarkable rebirth of an iconic producer.

The Crozes Hermitage Thalabert is not to be overlooked. This incredible lieu-dit has been owned by Jaboulet since 1834. It’s opulence and velvety texture is imparted by the pebble strewn site which is unique in Crozes and lends the wine a certain gravitas.

Hermitage la Masion Bleue is the sexy, opulent, dense wine that will appeal to any lover of juicy Shiraz. Generous and plush. If you are new to Hermitage, and love bigger Australian reds this is the place to start. While still unquestionably a wine of the Northern Rhone, that demonstrates its terroir admirably, the larger frame and bolder nature lends it mass appeal for those more familiar with home grown Shiraz.

La Chappelle is the highlight, a blend of some of the best sites atop the Hermitage hill it has all that you hear about the hermitage of old – depth, power and yet super silky tannins and a lifted ethereal nose that feels like it may well age gracefully like the 1961 and the 1990 to a wine that inspires another generation of winemakers. It is undoubtedly back to it’s best ergo back to being one of the most iconic wines on the planet.

Alex Wilcox