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Hermitage Wineries

Per-Henrik Mansson
Posted: April 26, 2001

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Hermitage Wineries

By Per-Henrik Mansson

Jean-Louis Chave

On a recent winter afternoon, Jean-Louis Chave took a guest into his labyrinthine old cellar, squinting in the gloom as he searched for a gem-a bottle of 1923 white Hermitage. It was covered by black, threadlike filaments of fungus, which he dusted off before working out the fragile cork. He sighed in relief as it came out.

"It really moves me to open this," said Chave, a lithe, handsome man. "Normally, I don¹t open old bottles without my father. (His father, Gérard, 65, keeps a hand in the winery, but has left his only son in charge of operations.) Chave swirled, sniffed and tasted the full-bodied white wine, which smelled of white truffles. "This was made by my great-grandfather. He went by horse carriage from Mauves to Hermitage and brought the grapes back the same way. My dream is to make wine that 50 or 60 years later will taste like this."

At 33, Chave is getting his chance, and he is making the most of it. He usually pours younger treasures for visitors-tastes of his latest bottled vintage (1998), plus samples still aging in oak barrels. Jean-Louis Chave's traditional white and red Hermitages are among the best and most-prized wines in the Rhône Valley. The medium-sized estate has been passed from father to son since 1481, which makes it one of the oldest family-owned wineries in the world.

37 Avenue du St.-Joseph, 07300 Mauves
Telephone (011) 33-4-75-08-24-63
Fax (011) 33-4-75-07-14-21
Open By appointment only; no wine sold on-site

M. Chapoutier

The dynamic Michel Chapoutier has reinvigorated this négociant, based in Tain-l'Hermitage, with special cuvées that receive high scores for their concentrated flavors and complex oak-spice character. He's also taken over a restaurant across the street from his tasting room; the restaurant serves several local wines by the glass.

18 Avenue Docteur Paul Durand, 26600 Tain-l'Hermitage
Telephone (011) 33-4-75-08-28-65
Fax (011) 33-4-75-08-81-70
Open Daily

A. Clape

Only a small sign with "Clape" written on it advertises this small domaine, based in a house in the middle of Cornas. Pierre-Marie Clape has mastered the traditional methods used by his father, Auguste, to produce some of the most authentic-tasting Syrahs in the region.

146 Route Nationale 86, 07130 Cornas
Telephone (011) 33-4-75-40-33-64
Fax (011) 33-4-75-81-01-98
Open By appointment only; no wine sold on-site

Paul Jaboulet Aîné

The friendly Jaboulet family welcomes visitors to their large winery, off a busy highway in the countryside. A pillar of the Rhône Valley, Jaboulet excels with its legendary Hermitage La Chapelle, consistently one of the best in the appellation. As a merchant, Jaboulet produces wines of solid quality in many other appellations, too.

Route Nationale 7, Les Jalets, 26600 La Roche de Glun
Telephone (011) 33-4-75-84-68-93
Fax (011) 33-4-75-84-56-14
Open By appointment only

Noël Verset

Here is a Rhône-style "garage" winery. The fermenting tanks are actually kept in a garage across the road from the home of this diminutive, octogenarian grower. But the warm, gentle Noël Verset is cutting back: He's sold his oldest Syrah vines to négociant Tardieu-Laurent. Fortunately, he will continue to farm 1.2 acres in the Cornas appellation. Current wine for sale: 1999 Cornas (about $12).

Impasse de la Coulyre, 07130 Cornas
Telephone (011) 33-4-75-40-36-66
Fax (011) 33-4-75-40-36-66
Open By appointment only

For the complete article, please see the May 15, 2001, issue of Wine Spectator magazine, page 68. (Subscribe today)

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