2012 J. L. Chave Hermitage Blanc

Year: 2012
Appellation: Rhone
Country: France
Wine Spectator: 97
Wine Advocate: 96
Vinous Media: 94
White Wine
Alcohol by Volume: 14.0%
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'A stunner from the start, with distinctive depth to the creamed mango, white peach and heather flavors, this maintains superior precision and definition as the singed almond, chamomile, salted butter and ginger notes fill in. Glazed pear, elderflower honey and beeswax details chime in on the extremely long finish. Enjoyable now, but needs serious cellaring to show its full potential. Best from 2016 through 2037. 500 cases made. -J.M." (WS)

"Much more open, fleshy and sexy, the 2012 Hermitage Blanc was just bottled a month prior to this tasting. Coming from l’Ermite, Les Rocoules, Maison Blanche and Peleat lieux-dits, it’s always a rough blend of 80% Marsanne and 20% Roussanne that’s aged in barrel. Loaded with notions of honeysuckle, orange marmalade, powered rock, buttered citrus and green almond, it’s full-bodied, rich, upfront and fruit loaded. While I think it will be a relatively accessible early in its life, it has the concentration to hold for two decades.

This was another terrific tasting with Jean-Louis Chave, and this family-run estate continues to fire on all cylinders. They've just finished construction on a cellar extension (the 2014s will be the first vintage made here) and while they still have a ways to go with their efforts in Saint Joseph (which includes a massive newly planted vineyard), this project seems to have progressed to a point where it’s at least possible to imagine the end. All of this appears to be a welcome relief, and the scope and amount of work involved in all of these new projects is truly monumental. They've done all of this while keeping their Hermitage releases as true to their idea of the appellation as possible, and I think as these notes show, they haven’t missed a beat.

As normal, the latest releases (2013 and 2012) were tasted from barrel, and the current release, the 2011, from bottle. The 2011 is a classic, sweetly fruited effort that I suspect will continue to fill in as it evolved in bottle. The 2012 is similar in quality, but is more rounded and sexy, and will deliver more pleasure in its youth, although neither of these are hard to appreciate even now. In stark contrast to both of these, the 2013 is a backwards brute that shows more granite-like minerality than anything else at present. This is a unique vintage here and Jean-Louis even hinted that he might pull out a Cuvee Cathelin.

As to the whites, I continue to love these massive, textured and classically styled efforts. These beauties age on their concentration and extract, and thankfully, there’s been no concession at this estate to the rising trend to harvest earlier and focus on acidity. His 2013 tastes like a hypothetical mix of the 2011 and the 2012, with the focus and minerality of the ’11 and the voluptuousness and texture of the 2012. " (WA)

"Pale gold. Potent, mineral-accented honeysuckle, citrus and orchard fruit aromas show remarkable freshness and lift. Tightly wound, energetic lemon curd and green apple flavors flesh out with air to display excellent depth, with no excess fat. Finishes on a suave floral note, with an insistent mineral quality and wonderful focus and length. " (VM)