Last night at the Maison Heinrich Heine (Cité Universitaire Paris) we threw a farewell party for Susanna, since she’s headin’ back to Barcelona after a six-month exchange in Paris. To celebrate the occasion I busted out a bottle of Paul Jaboulet Aîné Crozes Hermitage that I’ve been holding since last May. It was part of my team’s first place prize package, after winning the Défi de Bacchus national tasting competition in Lyon.
Paul Jaboulet Aîné, most famous for its label « Hermitage La Chapelle », is an important Rhone producer. The estate was founded in 1834 in Tain l’Hermitage by Antoine Jaboulet. The estate’s name comes from the name of the older of Antoine’s two twin sons. In 1984 a brand new winery was built just to the south in La Roche de Glun. By the 1990s the estate owned 95 hectares of vines, including every Northern Rhone appellation except for Côte-Rôtie. These holdings represented roughly one-third of the total production. Throughout the 90s the estate grew, purchasing Domaine St-Pierre (Cornas) and part of Domaine Raymond Roure (Crozes-Hermitage). Côte-Rôtie was also added to the repertoire. Today the estate sells over 20 labels and two-thirds of the production is from purchased wine, versus purchased grapes or estate bottlings. Many critics believe that this led to some quality variability. Nonetheless, in addition to La Chapelle, the estate has been internationally recognized for its estate bottlings, including Crozes-Hermitage, Domaine de Thalabert, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Les Cèdres, Côte-Rôtie, and Les Jumelles. In 2005, after what many felt were a few years of sub-par vintages, the estate was sold to the Bordeaux producer, Château La Lagune, who also owns Champagne Billecart-Salmon.
The particular bottling I reviewed was the 2005 Crozes Hermitage “Les Jalets”. Les Jalets is a 6 hectare vineyard with 25-year-old vines. Additionally some purchased grapes go into the final blend. The 2005 vintage was marked by drought up to the month of July, which saw some limited rainfall. The key moment in the vintage was on the 11th of August when 30mm of rain fell, greatly assisting in the grape maturation process. The weather remained favorable from that point on. Regarding the characteristics of the mid to late September harvest, the phenolics were very nice and probably the most distinguishing factor was the exceptionally low yield of 30 hectoliters per hectare, compared to the average of 40 to 45. The total acidity was very high and the pH fell in around 3.3 to 3.4. This outcome allowed for a longer maceration, which lasted for about 3 weeks. The ageing was strictly in vats and in the bottle. The wine undergoes no barrel ageing.
2005 Paul Jaboulet Aîné « Les Jalets » Crozes Hermitage
Tasting Notes: 100% syrah. 12.5% ABV. Very dark purple in the glass. Dry, dusty spices and bright berries up front on the nose with a subtle suggestion of oak. It starts off slightly aromatically challenged (this was a freshly opened bottle); however, the wine opens up nicely to floral notes. There are smooth, creamy, medium tannins in the mouth with a balanced acidity and a medium to full body. There are flavors of sour black cherries and a subtle hint of strawberry jam. Overall not too complex and the finish is a little lacking.
Rating: (WS 88) 14/20
Price: $21 @ Wine Spectator