TN: 2020 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage (France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage)

  • 2020 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage (4/9/2023)
    No. 7248. So incredibly different from the last few vintages. This is distinctively different from all the vintages I've tasted right at release, which I started doing for the 2015. This is far lighter in style, though that is not to say that this is a light wine. After all, this is Chave Hermitage we're talking about here. The nose is stunning, with mostly red fruit, a touch of dried herbs, and already a bit of nascent smoked meat. But it's the palate where this really distinguishes itself -- the light, almost ethereal quality of the fruit here, with its racy acids and most important, an extraordinarily lifted, elegant granitic minerality. This feels like a super amped up St. Joseph (in all the best ways) with a back end intensity that you really only find in the Gonon VV. Silky, non-obtrusive tannins. Perhaps the lightness makes this more approachable now, so it is really no shame nor hardship to open one up. This may not be the longest-lived edition of this wine (though the acids will keep this going for many years anyway), but it is one that reminds me of all the best aspects of 2000, 2004, and 2008, but with more overall intensity. (98 points)

JLL gave it the first six stars since the '15:

five parts in pre-blend tanks: **1) (Beaumes, Péléat, the most elegant, from clay-sand soils) *() quite a dark red; there’s a joli sweep, curve to the nose, red cherry fruit central – it swoops, has notes of smoke, cordite. The palate debut is silky, its texture an asset, is suave all through, very fine, gives a direct delivery of red fruit into an aromatic, precise close. 27 years “It’s supple, precise, the fruit quite striking – it’s not a texture of structure, is very Hermitage – you don’t find this outside Hermitage,” J-L Chave **2) (L’Hermite, a little Beaumes) ******* dark red; the nose shows a full ripeness of red fruit, liqueur, style, dark fruit, cassis also, violets. The palate links well, holds suave and stylish gras, develops length, the tannins of l’Hermite, their elegance, with steady inner firmness, support from them. Its aromatic and stylish, bears much promise, has great length and appeal, real late oomph. The tannins need five years minimum. 29 years **3) (mostly granite wine) ******** dark red; closed, smoky-rocky, granite-inspired nose, cassis fruit present. The palate has the vibration of granite, proper fresh length, iron and violets in beautiful harmony, very good crispness in the tannins, blue fruit on the close. This has top structure. 32 years “It shows Pinot on the nose, is very aristocratic,” J-L Chave. **4) (12 hl barrel) ******* dark robe; the nose has a sleek air, blackberry-blackcurrant, is profound, the depth very tight – it’s shapely, promising. The palate gives a good stream of good, precise black fruit, is very much on fruit with an underlay of inner power, density, gives a firm couch for the wine, a late sense of strength. From 6 years 37 years “This will bring a lot to the first three,” J-L Chave **5) (12 hl barrel, mainly Bessards with a bit of L’Hermite) ******** dark robe; the nose has lingering depth, soaked cherries-griottes, a sweet intensity, is very close-knit. The palate shows suave, sure flow Hermitage with a notch more elegance than number 4. It has a very classy feel, holds assured, stylish gras that is very well established, the finale more refined than number 4, is silken wine of much purity and style, has spine well on the inside, the balance primo. 40 years. 2020 is a wine of immense promise, most striking, the balance exceptional. A long life ahead it has. The last two will compose the Cathelin 2020, perhaps 15% of number 4 with 85% number 5 – see the Cathelin entry for that blend. 2056-60 Oct 2022 **Previously July 2021 ***** 1) (Péléat, cask) ****** red robe; has a pure toned nose, joli and aromatic raspberry present, is softly sunny. The palate is silken, tuneful, bears juicy clarity, refined tannins, is handy, engaging wine of good balance, nice and self contained. 26 years **2) (Beaumes, cask) *() dark red; licorice, black fruit, cassis leaf airs, hint of black olives on a fresh and upright nose, links to Burgundy. The palate is nicely together, continuous, elegant, bears close-knit juice, the tannins ripe, complete. Licorice, oak, bacon fat mingle on the palate, notes of the South, black olives. 28 years **3) (L’Hermite, cask) ******* dark robe; oxtail, meaty notes, blood entrails, brewed fruits, plums with spice on the nose. This is ripe, forward wine on the palate, floral-rose tones, holds plump, layered gras with round tannins. It’s rather spherical, continues well, carries herbal notes. It’s persistent, red-fruited, not much revealed, holds the complexity as it should from this climat. The exit is finely powdery. 33 years **4) (Le Méal, cask) ******* a touch ahead of L’Hermite: full red. Cautious, stylish nose, potential, refinement, black olives’ airs. The palate glides along, on dark red fruits, mulberry, the tannins pliant, great squeeze in the texture, a lip smacking finale. This is notably curvy and giving, bears very tasty Méal juice, lovely strawberry. 36 years **5) (Les Bessards, cask) ******** at last, a Bessards like yesteryear – cool glints, cassis, pine, shaded glades of evergreen trees. The palate is smoky, cool, wears its mineral gracefully, well within, lengthens with tobacco and pings of clarity in its black fruits. Class, indeed, pedigree, is a maestro, Grand Vin. “It has class, discretion, finesse,” J-L Chave. 37 years OVERALL this is 14°. The Bessards will mark it more than the 2019, the latter being Méal-inspired, cool versus sun. Much to look forward to, therefore. 2055-57 July 2021

I had a bottle 7144 last week as well. Agree it was a surprisingly good. very excited for these.

As an aside, I’m always annoyed by the Chave component notes. Not that there isn’t value and interest in what the various components bring to the wine, but for gods sake, make the approximate blend and give me that note. It’s what I will be buying and drinking.