Paul Jaboulet Hermitage la Chapelle 2007
Four and a half glasses
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Some lovely fruit, polished and clean, with all the attributes of a fine terroir andmdash; mineral and above all a lot of sweet, ultraripe fruit. Full-bodied, long, with plenty of toasted, smoked bacon and blackberry notes. Easier to appreciate young than many La Chapelles, but what hedonistic pleasure. Best from 2007 through 2015.
Massively built, this swaggers like a prizefighter, its deep, staining flavors of black fruits and molasses throbbing with raw, smoky power. It's clearly in need of time, but it will always be a wine that thrives on muscularity rather than finesse or complexity. It's impressive for the sheer scale of its fruit and the way that the ripeness is controlled within a structured frame. Be prepared for a heady, full-throttled experience.
The 1997 Hermitage La Chapelle has begun to completely close down, which is surprising in view of how sweet, seductive, and precocious this vintage can be. However, the color seems to get deeper with exposure to air (the wine was far more drinkable after 24 hours of aeration than it was upon opening). The moderately intense bouquet exhibits plenty of ripe blackberry and cherry fruit, in addition to spicy, mineral characteristics. There is considerable weight and volume, but the wine is tight, and nearly impenetrable, leaving an impression of a large, deep, four-square monolith in need of 7-10 years of cellaring - at the minimum. This is an outstanding Hermitage La Chapelle that will have at least three decades of positive evolution. For readers intent on committing infanticide, open and decant it 12-24 hours in advance. The improvement is dramatic. Perhaps it is Jacques Jaboulet's preference to bottle with very high levels of CO2 (1200 ppm) that makes this wine so difficult to taste in its youth. Anticipated maturity: 2007-2025.
Deep, saturated ruby. Intensely spicy aromas of blackberry, bitter cherry, tobacco and minerals, with a complicating note of black pepper that became more pronounced with air. This is quite fresh and lively for the vintage, showing tangy red and dark berry flavors and a solid, chewy texture. Finishes with considerable finesse.
The most famous wine of the estate, the 2005 Hermitage La Chapelle, looks outstanding. Apparently the new owners eliminated nearly 50% of the production to come up with this cuvee, which looks set to have at least 30 years of longevity. It was aged in all small French barrels, of which about 15-20% are new, so the actual winemaking and elevage haven't changed as of yet, although the famed Bordeaux winemaking guru, Professor Denis Dubourdieu, has been hired, and his expertise tends to be more with white rather than red wines, so we'll see what his talents provide in future vintages. This wine is outstanding, dark ruby/purple-colored with notes of creme de cassis, tobacco leaf, and some melted licorice and gamey animal notes. It is medium to full-bodied, has high tannin, moderate acidity, and admirable purity and depth. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2027.
Dark red. Inviting aromas of currant, leather, smoke, pepper and earth. Sweet, elegant and showy, with lovely juicy currant and pepper flavors. Has a distinctly claret-like weight and plummy character. Finishes suave and long. Showing a lot of personality today but this will evolve fairly rapidly. The 2001, which featured a stricter selection of fruit, seems much younger and capable of slower development in bottle.
The '91 La Chapelle has the dense black fruit of other '91 Hermitage wines we tasted, but with a difference: balance. The acidity is far from searing, but it's strong enough to create a lusciousness, a beehive of activity as the wine enters the mouth. That balance helps create a dramatic wine, with some power and intensity (though a shade of the '90 vintage). It has the rugged character that reminds of the steep rock cliffs of the Hermitage vineyard.