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Jaboulet rightly places Thalabert only just behind La Chapelle in their hierarchy of Rhône wines. In this great vintage, it is a stunning wine with an abundance of ripe, mature fruit.
Product Code: RH111781A
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View all products by Paul Jaboulet Aîné
The man credited with starting the family firm was Antoine Jaboulet in the early nineteenth century. Antoine had twin sons, Henri and Paul. Both expanded the business but it was the elder (aîné) brother who had the business named after him giving the full title of the firm: Paul Jaboulet Aîné. The generations passed until Louis and his brother Jean arrived on the scene. Louis was the brains and marketing genius and it was he who, by some accident, made the very first contact with The Society some 40 years ago. Among the first wines ever bought would have been La Chapelle 1961, probably one of the greatest wines ever made.Louis Jaboulet remained in charge for some time until his son Gérard was rightly put in charge. Gérard, brilliant and outgoing like his father, was a worthy successor and became the driving force behind the firm. Sadly, a succession of calamities in the 1990’s were about to endanger the firm’s survival. In the early 1990s Gérard’s equally talented brother Jacques, who had overseen winemaking, was involved in a scuba-diving accident which left him in a coma for months and from then on unable to recover his influence. Then, tragically in 1997, Gérard died suddenly, aged just 55. Gérard was not just the driving force of Jaboulet; he also had the authority that held the family together. Following his passing, the next generation, young and inexperienced, struggled to cope. The baton was passed between several members of the family, who never quite managed to restore the harmony and success of old in the wines as much as in family relations.In 2005 news came that the entire family business had been sold to Franco-Swiss financier, Jean-Jacques Frey, who also owns Château La Lagune in Bordeaux as well as having a large holding in Champagne house Billecart-Salmon. His daughter, Caroline Frey, is in charge of winemaking. Much has changed, with Frey’s considerable wealth allowing Jaboulet to invest heavily in new cellars as well as more vineyards in Côte-Rôtie and Châteauneuf-du-Pape, for example. The wines themselves are certainly more convincing than those made during the tumultuous period following Gérard’s death, but it is still early days for the new regime.At the heart of the estate is Hermitage where Jaboulet own 22 hectares, a little less than Chapoutier. The vineyards, in descending order of size, are Méal, Maisons Blanches, Bessards, Diognieres, La Croix and Rocoules. It is the blend of syrah grapes from these vineyards that make La Chapelle, which is a brand name and not a vineyard. Indeed, though the chapel itself, from where the wine takes its name is owned by Jaboulet, the vines around belong mostly to Chapoutier and Chave.As impactful as La Chapelle, and certainly more affordable, is Crozes-Hermitage from the Thalabert vineyard, an original Jaboulet planting. Another important area for Jaboulet is Cornas, where they make some of the appellation’s best wines, from fruit grown on their own estate at Saint Pierre, and from grapes purchased from other growers. Jaboulet also has excellent relations with suppliers in the southern Rhône, enabling them to make The Society’s Exhibition Cairanne, exclusively for us.
A narrow, funnel-shaped vineyard extends on both sides of the Rhône from Vienne in the north to Valance in the south. The scenery is often dramatic with many of the vineyards perched precariously on the steep valley sides. The wines match the scenery: deeply coloured, fine, spicy reds made from the syrah grape and rich, full-bodied whites made from marsanne and roussanne grapes, or the more aromatic viognier up in Condrieu. Granite, sandy silica and clay soils predominate though small traces of limestone may also be found in Hermitage, Crozes and Cornas. Production here is relatively small, accounting for less than 3% of the total for the Rhône Valley. Most of the wines are sold by appellation with three being white only, two red only and three others where both red and white can be made. The appellation Côtes-du-Rhône is rarely seen in the north and may well disappear altogether. On the other hand, full use is made of the vin de pays/vin de France category which allows producers to make slightly simpler wines from young vines or from vines that for one reason or another were not included in any appellation.Seyssuel There is no appellation Seyssuel. These steep vineyards on the left bank close to Vienne were once famous but fell into obscurity after phylloxera wiped them out in the 19th century. Since the late 1990s, however, there has been a move to reclaim this valuable land for the vine. Many growers are involved here and the results are extremely good. The wines are broadly similar to Côte-Rôtie in style but maybe riper and more dramatic, the vines, after all, face the evening sun and there is more heat here than in Côte-Rôtie. Full appellation status is probably just a few years away after the efforts of Ogier, Villard and Villa have done so much to put it on the map.Côte-Rôtie Red only. The “roasted slope”, only half an hour’s drive south of Beaujolais, this northernmost outpost of the syrah grape produces wines that at times can match Burgundy for delicacy and charm. The vineyard is very steep with an incline of as much as 60 degrees. Guigal is the most important producer attracting the highest prices, but there are dozens of smallholders making interesting wines. Guigal has made new oak very fashionable and many growers use it sometimes to excess.Condrieu White only from the viognier grape. The scent of apricot in a good example of Condrieu is almost intoxicating. Rapid expansion of vineyards means that there are lots of young vines and therefore wines that lack substance, so there is good reason to get to know the better growers, such as André Perret, François Villard and Christophe Pichon, and follow them..Saint-Joseph Reds from syrah and whites from marsanne and roussanne; reds are more exciting. The best Saint-Josephs have class and can be good value. Some of the best slopes are only now being replanted after years of neglect, so huge potential. Many top producers have started to bring out single-vineyard Saint-Josephs. All can be brilliant and though pricey, offer better value than top-end Côte-Rôties for example. Look for the grower’s name. Crozes-Hermitage Reds are made from syrah and whites from marsanne and roussanne. Crozes-Hermitage accounts for more than half of the northern Rhône and its wines are plentiful and accessible. Reds are better than whites. Crozes-Hermitage comes in two parts. The largest is on the flat, close to the river and what would have been a river bed. It produces deeply coloured reds that are soft and fruity and without question a perfect introduction to the syrah of the north. The other part is behind the hill of Hermitage, sometimes on granite but mostly on white clay and limestone. This is the historic heart of Crozes producing wines of interest and substance and the whites from here can be outstanding too.Hermitage Syrah for reds, marsanne with a little roussanne for whites. This amazing southfacing slope has the greatest pedigree of any wine in the Rhône Valley. Its complex geology ensures added interest and complexity and in good years, Hermitage may sit at the highest tables. The downside is that the quality and reputation of Hermitage wines from the best producers means that there is a very limited supply of the best wines, and prices are set to rise.Cornas Red only from syrah. It is a small appellation nestling in a half amphitheatre of mostly granite, all facing fully south. The climate here is significantly warmer so Cornas is often among the first to harvest. Wines are black, thick and often tannic in their youth. Style is changing and quality is on the up, almost matching Hermitage. Cornas remains an uncompromising wine and rewards good food. Always decant.Saint-Péray White only made from marsanne and roussanne. The granite of Cornas gives way to limestone. The wines have more acidity and keep well. For some unaccountable reason, historically, most of the wine was sparkling but mercifully things are changing. There is big potential for fine whites. Producer’s name is essential. The Drôme Valley This is a major tributary of the Rhône that rises in the Alps and joins up with the Rhône to the south of Valence. At the western end there are a few vineyards, mostly of syrah and sold as Côtes-du- Rhône Brézème. This is rare, very little known and amazingly good-value source for Crozes-like reds. Further east, the landscape becomes more mountainous and the grapes mostly white, clairette and muscat and wines are mostly sparkling. Clairette de Die is light and sweet, a bit like Italian Asti, while Crémant de Die is dry and full-flavoured.
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