The Chaves have been growing vines on the famous Hermitage hill for over 500 years. Gérard Chave took over from his father in 1970 and rapidly achieved megastar status due to the extraordinary quality of his wines. The estate is currently under the helm of University of California Davis graduate Jean Louis Chave , although his father Gerard still plays an active role. The domaine produces a red St Joseph 'Offerus' (made in equal proportions from senior vines in Mauves and St -Jean-de Muzols), an acclaimed Vin de Paille, but their reputation is built on their superb red Hermitage (Syrah with the addition of 15% white grapes) and white Hermitage (85% Marsanne and 15% Roussanne).
The Chaves own 15 hectares of vines on the Hermitage and crucially their Hermitage holding is spread across 9 of the 18 climates on the hill (incl. Les Bessards, the adjacent Le Méal, Les Roucoles, Maison Blanche and the monopoles L'Hermite and Peléat). This means that they can produce a blend which reflects the separate "terroirs" of the climates and is a perfect balance between aromatic complexity, power and finesse.
The red 2007 Hermitage is a candidate for the wine of the vintage. It is a blend of fruit from some of Hermitage’s finest vineyard sites (Les Bessards, Meal, l’Ermite, Peleat, and Les Beaumes). The latter two vineyards tend to offer finesse, elegance, and aromatic complexity without the power and richness found in Meal and Les Bessards. L’Ermite seems to provide an extraordinary liqueur of rocks and floral character. The 2007 production was very tiny because of serious crop-thinning as well as a strict selection process in the cellar. This should turn out to be a mid-90 point red Hermitage with loads of tannin, and a style not dissimilar from Chave’s 1996, but even better. Very structured with superb concentration, noble sweet tannins, and oodles of tar-infused creme de cassis, licorice, fig, and earth notes. It is a large-framed, big-boned effort with a finish that lasts nearly a minute. Wine Advocate # 182 Apr 2009 Robert Parker (93-95)
One of my favorite true and authentic vignerons to visit is the Chave family, located in the tiny, one-horse village of Mauves, just south of Tournon. The son, Jean-Louis, is taking over the reins more and more, but his father, Gerard, is still involved even though he is officially retired. As always, these wines performed brilliantly. Readers should keep in mind that the reviews of the 2007 white Hermitage and 2007 red Hermitage are a matter of extrapolating from tasting all the separate vineyards that go into these wines. That said, the Chaves appear to be ratcheting up their quality level because of a Draconian selection process in the vineyard as well as in the winery. The Chave estate wines’ finest value is St.-Joseph (5,000 bottles produced in each vintage), which comes from hillside vines planted in pure schist just outside their home village of Mauves.
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