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.
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.
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 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.
The finest example of this cuvee since 1990, the 2003 Hermitage La Chapelle (50,000 bottles rather than the normal 96,000+ were produced) possesses an inky/purple color as well as a tremendous bouquet of creme de cassis, crushed flowers, truffles, and licorice. Full-bodied and powerful (15% natural alcohol) with good freshness and definition, this big, rich, dense, reassuringly great La Chapelle should be cellared for 5-8 years, and drunk over the following 20-25.
Deceptively graceful at first, with a Burgundian-like perfume, this quickly delivers a torrent of fruit - blackberry, boysenberry and black currant - that cascades over itself, pushed from behind by flavors of mocha, mineral, tar and violets. Long, sweet and pure through a densely structured finish. Best from 2008 through 2030.
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.