The 2021 growing season in Hermitage saw the end of a run of warm (almost 'southern') vintages with cooler temperatures, spring frosts and more rain than previous years. Some observers argue that this is likely to yield more balanced and 'typical' wines - a viewpoint that it will be interesting to access over time. It is too early to prognosticate on the quality of the 2022 vintage but spring frosts were largely avoided and mid-season temperatures were (once again) high.
Seasoned wine-maker Jean-Louis Chave is more relaxed than many about the vagaries of the weather as his aim is to make the best wine he can within the context of the climate. His track record is certainly impressive - he prefers to make less wine rather than bottle anything that could be regarded as below par.
With 9.3 hectares of Syrah and 4.5 hectares of Marsanne and Roussanne growing in 9 different climats, he certainly has an enviably broad palate of fruit from which to select his final blends. Chez Chave, it is all about assemblage - each parcel is vinified individually and the blending is very careful and considered.
The Domaine's Hermitage blanc is made from a blend of 80% Marsanne and 20% Rossanne that is vinified and then raised in vat and barrel for a minimum of 18 months prior to blending and bottling. The wine often drinks well on its youthful fruit but tends to tighten up at 3 to 7 years of age then drinks at its best with some maturity. Typically, it has diverse aromas of apricots, acacia and honeysuckle and a complex white stone-fruit palate with notes of nuts and minerals preceding a long, elegant finish. It is best decanted and should not be served too cold - around 12 degrees C. is ideal.
Jean-Louis' Hermitage rouge is made from pure Syrah that has a similar élevage to the white wine but is blended and bottled approximately 2 years after the harvest. The finished wine has a black fruit, leather and spice bouquet and a core of forest fruit with peppery undertones and structure of tannins that will support 10 to 20+ years bottle age. It needs at least 5 years in bottle to reveal its potential and makes a terrific partner to small game, venison and wild mushroom dishes.
We are also privileged to receive allocations of the Chaves' 'Sélection' négociant bottlings of Hermitage. The white 'Blanche' is made from pure Marsanne and has wild flower and white plum notes and a palate of white peaches offset by fresh acidity. The red 'Farconnet' has a deep purple robe, hedgerow berry scents and a beguiling black fruit palate supported by fine-grained tannins. Both represent great value for money and provide ready access to the appellation and the Chave canon.