In the two short years I've been writing this blog, I’ve introduced a handful of new domaines, including Domaine La Barroche in Châteauneuf, Domaine des Martinelles in Crozes-Hermitage and Domaine du Coulet in Cornas, among others.
Today I sat down with the father-and-son team of Philippe and Vincent Jaboulet, who have just released the debut wines from their eponymous domaine. If the name is familiar, that’s because Philippe Jaboulet spent more than a quarter century at Paul Jaboulet Aîné overseeing the vineyards and purchasing grapes. When the long-standing family business was sold, Philippe kept 15 hectares of family vines for himself and purchased another 15 hectares to create his new domaine (1 hectare equals 2.47 acres).
“It was important for me to keep some of the family vineyards because I kept a piece of my identity,” said Philippe.
Philippe, 57, is staying close to home, so to speak, focusing on reds and whites from both Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage, along with a Cornas bottling. Vincent, 25, is helping out after cutting his teeth working harvests with Joseph Drouhin in Burgundy and Château de Beaucastel and Delas in the Rhône Valley.
The domaine’s Crozes-Hermitage Nouvelère is sourced from the domaine’s oldest vines, including some kept from the original Thalabert parcels that go into one of Paul Jaboulet Aîné's best-known wines (the cuvée name is a play on the words “nouvelle” and “era”).
The wine is made in a modern style, with fermentation and aging in oak and punching down of the cap for more extraction. The resulting wine is very driven, with dark, racy currant and fig notes supported by a tarry backbone.
Younger vine parcels go into the domaine’s regular Crozes-Hermitage bottling, which is made in a more traditional method—fermentation is done in cement vats, and a gentle pump over is employed, rather than the more rigorous punching down. Consequently, the wine is elegant in style, with sanguine, shaved vanilla bean, incense and black cherry notes on a silky frame.
The red Hermitage is sourced from 30-year-old vines in the Les Dionnières lieu-dit, located between parcels owned by Jean-Louis Chave and the rapidly improving Ferraton Père & Fils. The 2006 is concentrated and very direct, with a big core of black currant and blackberry fruit rumbling across the palate and serious grip on the finish that will need cellaring to round into form.
The white Hermitage is unique in that it is made from 100 percent Roussanne, a grape that usually takes a backseat when blended with Marsanne. Roussanne is more prone to oxidation, offering a broader, softer texture and richer, more tropical fruit notes as opposed to the bright mineral- and floral-driven Marsanne grape, which has become the grape of choice for many white Northern Rhône producers, including Michel Chapoutier. But here is where a bit of modern-day experience has come in handy, thanks to Vincent’s time at Beaucastel, which is known for its 100 percent Roussanne bottling of Châteauneuf.
Jaboulet’s white Hermitage is very ripe, but it shows excellent focus to its peach, mango and papaya notes, all backed by a stony undertow and a fresh yellow apple note. There’s no sign of oxidation, and the wine, while powerful, isn’t top-heavy. It’s sourced from vines in the Maison Blanche and Le Beaume parcels, and both it and the red offer potentially outstanding quality. Prices for both ($82 for the red and $66 for the white) also offer solid value for Hermitage (comparatively speaking), an appellation whose wines typically garner triple-digit prices.
The new Jaboulet domaine is small, producing only around 10,000 cases a year, which represents a big change of pace for Philippe after helping to grow Paul Jaboulet Aîné into the major négociant house it is today.
For many small, family-owned domaines in France, big changes often occur when a domaine passes from one generation to the next, sometimes for better, other times for worse. In this case however, Philippe and Vincent, two generations with different levels of experience and ideas, are creating their domaine together from scratch. The early returns are very promising.
[Note: As usual, official reviews of the wines will be published following a blind tasting of the wines along with other Rhônes from the same vintage and appellation.]