1996 Hermitage, La Chapelle, Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Rhône
The 1996 Hermitage La Chapelle is immensely impressive. The acidity is high. The colour is black/purple, and the wine is highly concentrated but unevolved and impossible to penetrate. It could turn out like the 1983 and never develop as well as its early promise suggests. Nevertheless, it is a massive effort with extraordinary concentration, but the high acidity requires a minimum of 10 years of cellaring.
Robert M. Parker, Jr., Wine Advocate (June 2000)
About this WINE
Paul Jaboulet Aîné are iconic in the Rhône. Founded in 1834 by Antoine Jaboulet (father of Paul), it was Paul’s son, Louis and grandson, Gérard who can be heralded among the great ambassadors for both the region and the négociant. Upon Gérard’s untimely death in 1997, the business began struggling and was sold to the Frey family in 2005.
Jacques and Nicolas Frey are involved in the daily running of the Maison Jaboulet, while Caroline Frey has been at the helm of winemaking since 2006. She immediately began converting the estate to sustainable farming and they were certified organic in 2016. In 2022, Jean-Guillaume Prats, of Bordeaux fame, was brought onboard. You might notice two of the domaine’s top wines – La Chapelle Rouge and Chevalier de Stérimberg – are absent from our offer. This was not an oversight – these will be released via “La Place de Bordeaux” in September, so please do watch out for those later in the year.
Hermitage is the most famous of all the northern Rhône appellations. The hill of Hermitage is situated above the town of Tain and overlooks the town of Tournon, just across the river. Hermitage has 120 hectares and produces tiny quantities of very long-lived reds.The vines were grown in Roman times, although local folklore claims their origins to be nearly 600 years earlier. The name ‘Hermitage’ first appeared in the 16th century, derived from a legend of the 13th century Crusade, involving a wounded knight called Gaspard de Stérimberg, who made refuge on the hill, planted vines and became a hermit.
During the 17th century Hermitage was recognised as one of the finest in Europe. In 1775, Ch. Lafite was blended with Hermitage and was one of the greatest wines of its day. In the late 19th century, however, Phylloxera wiped out all the vineyards.
The wines are powerful, with a deep colour and firm tannins, developing into some of the finest examples in France, with the potential to age for many decades. The best Hermitage is produced from several climats or more, blended together. The main climats are Les Bessards, Le Meal, L’Hermite, Les Greffieux and Les Diognieres. Most of the finest climats face broadly south, giving maximum sunshine. Most growers only have one or two climats and they might not complement each other; Hermitage quality can therefore vary hugely. Only the top producers have extensive diversified holdings.
Eighty percent of the wine produced is red, however up to 15 percent of white grapes can be used in the blend. Most growers use 100 percent Syrah and utilise the white grapes to make white wines only. Chapoutier, Jaboulet and Tain l’Hermitage Co-operative are the principle proprietors of the appellation’s vineyards.
The white wines are made from the Marsanne and Roussanne grapes. Great white Hermitage has the ability to age, taking on the fruit characters of apricots and peaches, often giving a very nutty finish. The best examples in great vintages can last 50 years.
Mature red Hermitage can be confused with old Bordeaux. In a blind tasting of 1961 First Growth Clarets, the famous 1961 Hermitage La Chapelle was included. Most people, including its owner, Gerard Jaboulet, mistook it for Ch. Margaux.
Recommended producers: Chave, Jaboulet, Chapoutier, Ferraton, Colombier
Best vintages: 2006, 2005, 2004, 2001, 1999, 1997, 1991, 1990, 1985
A noble black grape variety grown particularly in the Northern Rhône where it produces the great red wines of Hermitage, Cote Rôtie and Cornas, and in Australia where it produces wines of startling depth and intensity. Reasonably low yields are a crucial factor for quality as is picking at optimum ripeness. Its heartland, Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, consists of 270 hectares of steeply terraced vineyards producing wines that brim with pepper, spices, tar and black treacle when young. After 5-10 years they become smooth and velvety with pronounced fruit characteristics of damsons, raspberries, blackcurrants and loganberries.
It is now grown extensively in the Southern Rhône where it is blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre to produce the great red wines of Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas amongst others. Its spiritual home in Australia is the Barossa Valley, where there are plantings dating as far back as 1860. Australian Shiraz tends to be sweeter than its Northern Rhône counterpart and the best examples are redolent of new leather, dark chocolate, liquorice, and prunes and display a blackcurrant lusciousness.
South African producers such as Eben Sadie are now producing world- class Shiraz wines that represent astonishing value for money.
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Hermitage La Chapelle is named after the small hermit’s Chapel built in 1235 on the Hermitage hill; the wine regularly amazes with its incredible array of flavours - fruity and enticing when young but acquiring complex leathery and gamey overtones with age. This wine is ready to drink and will compliment any Autumnal or Winter fare well.
A rustic bouquet with dried cranberries and redcurrants, sous bois, tobacco leaf, tanned saddle leather and spice. A gentle brush of dark red fruit at the front palate leads to a lifted mineral acidity and finely intertwined tannin. A charming and gentle style of Hermitage from Jaboulet Aine, with nineteen years already in the bank, this is an elegant “traditional” style of Northern Rhone Syrah to drink now and maybe keep another 1 – 2 years.”
Stuart Rae, Private Account Manager, Berry Bros. & Rudd
1996 La Chapelle is a classic example of mature Syrah, garnet in colour with delicate aromas of wild mushroom, stewed fruit and a slight earthiness. The palate is softly textured, with beautiful tannins and a high acidity which carries the savoury, gamey notes through to the finish. Great for drinking now, as it is expected to arrive in November; I could think of nothing better than enjoying some roasted game over the festive period. It will hold on for another year but will not get any better.
Chris Lamb, Private Account Manager, Berry Bros. & Rudd
The nose of this fully developed but still richly coloured wine is highly enticing; the overall feeling is one of soft, very ripe Autumnal fruits – baked plums and damsons with a touch of rich and earthy roasted beetroots. There is even a suggestion of rather old-fashioned mature Pauillac fruit, with similarly comforting notes of polished sweet oak.
The palate has so many layers; it is fascinating – this is not to glug and swill but to enjoy and savour. There is tremendous energy to this wine, which is quite unusual, owing to the vibrant acidity which keeps the finish lively and really on its toes. This is unquestionably for drinking now and over the coming year to 18 months; it is the epitome of a well-aged and mature Hermitage, which is a perfect match for pheasant, boar or any game dish.
Gary Owen, Private Account Manager, Berry Bros. & Rudd
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