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2010 Evidence Par Caroline Jaboulet
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Jaboulet was for many years run by Gérard Jaboulet, who was one of the great ambassadors for Rhône wines, tirelessly travelling the world and spreading the Gospel according to the Holy Grail of Hermitage. He died suddenly in 1997 and the firm has been run by Philippe & Jacques Jaboulet, until 2006 when the real estate entrepreneur Jean-Jacques Frey purchased the wine company.
The Frey family has of long standing in the Champagne region and are owners of Château La Lagune in Bordeaux. Jacques and Nicolas Frey are now involved in the day-to-day running of the Maison Jaboulet, while Caroline Frey (pictured right), the eldest daughter, is at the helm of the wine-making team. Under Caroline’s leadership, in 2006, the vineyards earned Sustainable Farming status while Jaboulet's winegrowing is in the course of conversion towards biodynamic certification.
Jaboulet produces wine from 26 different appellations in the Rhône. Hermitage La Chapelle is named after the small hermit's Chapel built in 1235 on the Hermitage hill, the wine regularly rivals Bordeaux 1st Growths for its incredible array of flavours - fruity and enticing when young but acquiring complex leathery and gamey overtones with age.
Jaboulet's 45-hectare Domaine de Thalabert vineyard in Crozes Hermitage produces very high quality wines which are superior to most growers` Hermitages.
Cabernet Sauvignon lends itself particularly well in blends with Merlot. This is actually the archetypal Bordeaux blend, though in different proportions in the sub-regions and sometimes topped up with Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
In the Médoc and Graves the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend can range from 95% (Mouton-Rothschild) to as low as 40%. It is particularly suited to the dry, warm, free- draining, gravel-rich soils and is responsible for the redolent cassis characteristics as well as the depth of colour, tannic structure and pronounced acidity of Médoc wines. However 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines can be slightly hollow-tasting in the middle palate and Merlot with its generous, fleshy fruit flavours acts as a perfect foil by filling in this cavity.
In St-Emilion and Pomerol, the blends are Merlot dominated as Cabernet Sauvignon can struggle to ripen there - when it is included, it adds structure and body to the wine. Sassicaia is the most famous Bordeaux blend in Italy and has spawned many imitations, whereby the blend is now firmly established in the New World and particularly in California and Australia.
Wine has been produced in the Rhône Valley for over 500 years, with some of its vineyards being amongst the oldest in France. Syrah rules over the south with a mix of Mediterranean grapes, while in the north, the two stars are Hermitage – grown on an imposing granite hillside above the town of Tain and best put away in the back of the cellar for a decade – and Côte-Rôtie, a star appellation made famous by Guigal's single-vineyard wines, yet also home to dozens of fine producers as yet less well known. The sheer hillsides overlooking the river have to be terraced to make production possible.
St Joseph and Cornas also provide wines of weight and worth, but the best source for good value is Crozes-Hermitage, a satellite appellation which has come alive in the last few years with the arrival of young blood.
The river valley widens out south of Valence into Côtes du Rhône country on the windy alluvial plains and the lower slopes of the hills. It is a most imposing sight during the cold, clear, blue skies of Mistral conditions. The best of the wine villages of the Côtes du Rhône have been promoted to their own appellations - Vinsobres, Vacqueyras - close in quality to the better known Gigondas.
The king of the southern Rhône is Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Here the galets roulés, rounded rocks from the ancient river bed, provide the context for gloriously rich red wines that are redolent of the heat and herbs of the south, and enhanced by the complexity which comes from blending several grape varieties. Thirteen are permitted in all, but Grenache usually dominates, along with Syrah and Mourvèdre in support. A fine vintage needs eight to 10 years cellaring for best results.
If your taste runs to fuller, richer, relatively exotic white wines, then perhaps a white Hermitage or Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the Rhône Valley would suit better, or else a marvellously perfumed, heady Condrieu - headquarters of the Viognier grape.