"This blazes along, with a riveting iron note running from start to finish, keeping the red currant, damson plum, blackberry and boysenberry fruit racy and defined. Shows terrific cut through the finish, revealing extra tar and ganache hints for textural nuance. Very long. Best from 2018 through 2030. 44 cases imported. –JM" (WS)
"Another wine that topped out on my scale, the 523-case 2012 Ermitage l'Ermite is as profound an Hermitage as you can find. Coming from the granite soils located around the Chapel on the top of Hermitage hill, it's always the most tight, backward and structured of the releases, even more so than the Pavillon, which always seems to have another layer of sweet fruit to me. The 2012 is deeper and richer than the 2011, yet as with most 2012s, it more approachable and forward than the 2010 (and 2009 in this case). Exhibiting awesome notes of powdered rock, creme de cassis, liquid violets and lite gunpowder, it hits the palate with full-bodied richness, awesome mid-palate depth and building, ultra-fine tannin that frame the finish. It's an incredible wine that will won't start to become approachable until a decade after the vintage, and then will keep for three decades.
Michel Chapoutier has once again produced one of the reference-point lineups for the entire Rhône Valley. Certainly, his 2012s lived up to my billing last year, and they’re easily some of the finest efforts produced in the vintage, not only with his top cuvees in Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, but also in the up-and-coming appellation of St Joseph, as well as in Condrieu (where his Coteaux du Chery is one of the finest in the appellation), St Péray and Crozes Hermitage. You can see my thrilled reviews on his 2012 Southern Rhônes in Issue 215. His 2012 whites were all reviewed last year from bottle, but they were included again in the massive tasting at this estate this year, so I opted to include them again. They all showed as good, if not better, than last year. Tasted out of bottle this year, the Le Meal, Pavillon and l’Ermite came in at the top of their barrel reviews from last year, which puts them on par with what was accomplished in 2009 and 2010. That’s shocking to me, but the proof is in the glass, as they say.
Incredibly, I find the quality in the 2013s almost as compelling, and Michel thinks there’s more than one perfect wine in that lineup. His Le Meal and Les Greffieux releases, in particular, seem to have hit another level recently. These will see an extended élevage in barrel, and I suspect a few will still be in barrel next year for my tastings as well. The 2013 whites are some of the finest I’ve ever tasted from him, and they have incredible concentration, depth and length, with beautiful acidity and freshness. Marsanne just doesn’t get any better than what’s put into his le Meal, l’Ermite and de L’Orée cuvees. A wine I think competes at that level (and I’ve had it side by side numerous times) is his Saint Joseph Les Granits Blanc. Unfortunately, it’s now being priced at roughly the same level and falls outside what I would normally classify as value. Nevertheless, it’s a world-class example of Northern Rhône white and will age for two decades or more. However, a wine that’s still a smoking value is his Chante Alouette, and readers wanting to get a small taste of what’s offered by his upper-tier whites need to get a bottle (or more) of the 2012.
Other wines to keep on your radar are his single-vineyard releases from Domaine de Bila Haut in the Roussillon. These are incredible wines and I’ll report on the new releases from here early next year." (WA)
"Inky purple. An explosively perfumed bouquet evokes dark berry compote, cherry-cola, candied licorice and potpourri. Lush, expansive blackberry and blueberry flavors show serious vivacity, with lively Asian spice and violet qualities emerging with air. Closes smoky and extremely long, with velvety tannins and lingering vanilla and floral nuances. " (VM)
Ermitage L'Ermite is the most individual statement in the Hermitage appellation, and the most prized for followers of M. Chapoutier's grandest of crus. L'Ermite Rouge, a very rare wine (approximately 375 cases annually) produced from a 9.5 acre site at the top of Hermitage hill, is an intense Syrah with massive tannins. The vineyard's elevated position, over 200 meters, allows long ripening at the end of the growing season, and its loess soils provide excellent drainage for rainwater. The age of the vines averages over 80 years, and the vines are pruned to very low yield levels.