The 1999 L’Hermitage is an entirely different proposition with melted red fruit, clove, Italian meats and a touch of garrigues, biding its time before opening fully. The palate is reaching full maturity with firm tannins, red fruit infused with clove and thyme, less dense and muscular than bottles I tasted several years ago. Perhaps I would still afford it just another couple of years in bottle. There was one addition.
Anticipated maturity: 2022-2050
Jeb Dunnuck 96
Always pure class and incredibly classic in style, the 1999 Hermitage is not fully mature yet has another 15 years of prime drinking. Ruby-hued with no signs of bricking, it offers textbook red and black fruits as well as smoked meat, camphor, crushed rock, and peppery herbs. Playing in the medium to full-bodied end of the spectrum, it’s balanced, seamless, and just a gorgeous Hermitage from one of the world’s greats.
Robert Parker 94
More in the style of the ’01, the 1999 Hermitage is a serious effort that gives up a mineral-drenched profile of red and blackcurrants, beef blood, iron and dried flowers. More forward on the nose than the palate, with a tight, yet seamless texture that carries ample concentration and length, with bright acidity, it should continue to shine for another decade. 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, â€œyou don’t need a lab to make great wine.â€ 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 â€œGraniteâ€ year, or a â€œSunâ€ 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. Importer: Langdon-Shiverick, Los Angeles, CA; tel. (213) 483-5900
Anticipated maturity: 2014-2024