Only keep wines you love
with our Society's Promise
Free delivery on
12 bottles or orders over £75
Over 1300 wines
handpicked by our buyers
Complex, rich-tasting, full-bodied syrah from the prestigious Hermitage vineyard of the northern Rhône. This was selected for The Society by Jean-Louis Chave.
Product Code: RH40391
View all products by Domaine Jean-Louis Chave
Domaine Jean-Louis Chave is unquestionably one of the great wine estates of France and, as the label says quite modestly, can trace its origins back to 1481. The family comes from the Ardèche, in particular the village of Lemps. This is still the spiritual home of the family, who own a large house there, and also the location of Chave’s first vineyards, on land which today is part of the Saint-Joseph appellation. Of course the renown of Chave rests with the wines of Hermitage on the other side of the river, but acquisition came much later when the ravages of the phylloxera epidemic and the Great War made land suddenly available and at quite good prices. Today they own 15ha of vineyard, all scattered across Hermitage and reflecting the great geological diversity of the hill. It makes Chave the fourth-biggest landowner there (after Chapoutier, the Tain Co-operative and Jaboulet). What makes the Chaves special, quite apart from their prodigious talents and attention to detail, is the respect they have for tradition and for the appellation itself. Their interpretation of Hermitage exists as a blend of different terroirs, from the granites of les Bessards to the rich clay and limestone of Méal. They make outstanding wines in both red and white Hermitage and in some years even a tiny amount of vin de paille. The Wine Society has known two generations of Chaves. There was Gérard, learned epicurean with a passion for duck shooting, who made some of the greatest Hermitage ever, notably the 1978 and 1990. Then came his son Jean-Louis, introspective and perfectionist with his American wife and accent. Jean-Louis gradually took over during the 1990s, helped no doubt by the run of less favourable vintages in 1992, 93 and 94 – it is always better to start with difficult vintages: if you can cope with these you can cope with anything! There is a restless energy about Jean-Louis and with it a realisation that making great Hermitage was not enough of a challenge. Accordingly, he founded a very successful négoce house, which produces a very fine Côtes-du-Rhône and Saint-Joseph. Over the generations, the cellars in Chave’s headquarters at Mauve have expanded and today occupy three separate sites. First there are ancient cobwebbed cellars beneath Gérard’s house, where Hermitage is made. The négoce part of the enterprise is just round the corner in more functional surroundings. Finally, the Chaves bought the estate that was owned by their friends, the Florentin family. This included the legendary Clos de l’Arbelestrier which Jean-Louis is busy replanting and sorting out. The big project chez Chave is their Saint-Joseph vineyards. The ancestral site in Lemps on very steep granite was never replanted after phylloxera: in those days there was neither the money nor the manpower to undertake such work and the price for Saint-Joseph wine was far less than Hermitage. Understandably, all their efforts went into the latter and it is only in the last 10 years or so that they have begun to look at Saint-Joseph afresh. The task has been enormous: clearing the land of trees and shrubs, ploughing, rebuilding miles of dry stone walls and, only then, replanting. But there is real belief here that these ancient soils will one day produce great wine again. The Society’s Exhibition HermitageThe Chaves are owners in many of the best plots on Hermitage. Each vineyard is harvested and vinified separately before being raised in Burgundian barrels. Jean-Louis Chave starts making up his blends after these elements have spent a year or so in barrel and, inevitably, some of become surplus to requirements. It is these parcels that form the basis of The Society’s Exhibition Hermitage.The holdings on Hermitage There are 9.3ha of reds and 4.6ha of whites The principal vineyards are as follows:L’Hermite: 3.45 ha. Syrah and roussanne Rocoules: 3.45 ha. Syrah and marsanne Bessards: 2.05ha. 80-year-old syrah and the key ingredient in the red Péléat: 1.51ha. Mostly syrah but there is a plot of 100-year-old marsanne Le Méal: 1.02ha. 60-year-old syrah vines Diognières: 0.58ha. 50-year-old syrah vines Beaumes: 0.31ha. 60-year-old syrah vinesVercandieres: 0.46 ha. Syrah on granite at the bottom of Bessards Maison Blanche: 0.33ha. Marsanne Winemaking is along classical lines except that the fruit is cooled down before fermentation begins. Historically, red Hermitage was always destemmed, and still is today, to about 80% in order to avoid astringent tannins. Maceration and cap management is done by punching down, sometimes very traditionally by foot.All of the reds and most of the whites are aged in barrel for about 18 months with the amount of new wood dependent on the style of the vintage. Wines are bottled unfiltered and invariably develop a considerable crust or sediment.
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.
2011 was the third vintage in a row with its own style and character. The wines are generously flavoured, ripe tasting and with exceptionally smooth tannins. Cool summer temperatures helped, and the wines have sap and, as many growers put it, ‘belle frâicheur’. The weather was remarkable in that it started and ended with a heatwave punctuated by a cold and wet July in the middle. What had looked like being an early vintage, following an early and abundant flowering, ended up later than most recent vintages, but that extra time on the vine has resulted in extra concentration and depth of flavour. Clear skies and the Mistral wind meant a harvest of healthy grapes in ideal conditions. Patience had been needed as there was uneven ripening of some varieties.Northern RhôneThe syrah grape made beautifully balanced wines in 2011. Soft, rounded tannins underpin a core of ripe fruit. The wines are sensuous, sleek and pure. Hermitage has real depth and majesty, as does Cornas. Côte-Rôtie and Crozes are more variable but top producers made remarkable wines. Saint-Joseph was uniformally gorgeous, especially at the southern end.Southern RhôneWhat a vintage! Sometimes surpassing 2010 with wines that have more warmth, and soft, sweet and spicy flavours that we crave. The northern band of villages, which includes Vinsobres, Valréas and Uchaux, is outstanding and the wines perfectly balanced, and the same is true for west-bank villages like Lirac and Laudun. For the central belt of villages that includes everything from Cairanne to Gigondas, 2011 is fine, sometimes brilliant vintage of very full-bodied wines. Patience was a particular virtue for growers here, and the late harvesting Gigondas growers had a very good vintage indeed. Also, mourvédre deserves a special mention as it performed so beautifully in 2011. Châteauneuf blends that included a significant portion of mourvédre were magnificent.Picked earlier, the whites benefited hugely from the cold snap of July and early August. The wines were lithe, fine and classy with each variety clearly defined.
There are no member reviews for this product. Click the 'Leave a Review' button to be the first.
There are no press reviews for this product.
Log in to view notes
Sign up for a carefully-curated selection of recipes, guides, in-depth expertise and much more.
By using The Wine Society website, you agree to cookies being used in accordance with the policy outlined below. If you do not agree to this, you must alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you or cease using the website.
You may alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you, but this will cause difficulties when accessing and using some areas of the site. Instructions on how to do this can also be found below.
4.4.1. What are 'Cookies'?
4.4.2. How do Cookies help The Wine Society?
Cookies allow our website to function effectively. Cookies also help us to arrange content to match your preferred interests more quickly. We can learn what information is important to our visitors, and what isn't.
The Wine Society does not accept advertising from third parties and therefore, as a rule, does not serve third-party cookies. Exceptions to this include performance/analytical cookies (see below), used anonymously to improve the way our website works, the provision of personalised recommendations, and occasions when we may team up with suppliers to offer special discounts on goods or services.
The Society uses technology to track the patterns of behaviour of visitors to our site.
4.4.4. What type of cookies does The Wine Society use?
We use the following three types of cookies:
22.214.171.124. Strictly Necessary CookiesThese cookies are required for the operation of our website, enabling you to move around the website and use its features, such as accessing secure areas of the website. Without these cookies, services like shopping baskets or e-billing cannot be provided. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:
126.96.36.199. Functionality & Targeting/Tracking CookiesThese cookies are used to recognise you when you return to our website and to provide enhanced features. This allows us to personalise our content for you. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:
188.8.131.52. Performance/analytical cookiesThese cookies collect information about how visitors use a website, for instance which pages visitors go to most often, and if they get error messages from web pages. These cookies don't collect information which identifies a visitor. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. It is only used to improve how a website works. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:
184.108.40.206. Authentication CookieIn order for us to ensure that your data remains secure it is necessary for us to verify that your session is authentic (i.e. it has not been compromised by a malicious user). We do this by storing an otherwise meaningless unique ID in a cookie for the duration of your visit. No personal information can be gained from this cookie.
4.4.5. How do you turn cookies off?
All modern browsers allow you to modify your cookie settings so that all cookies, or those types which are not acceptable to you, are blocked. However, please note that this may affect the successful functioning of the site, particularly if you block all cookies, including essential cookies. For example, In Internet Explorer, go to the Tools Menu, then go to Internet Options, then go to Privacy. Here you can change the rules your browser uses to accept cookies. You can find out more in the public sources mentioned below.
4.4.6. Learn more about cookies