2016 J. L. Chave Hermitage Rouge

Year: 2016
Appellation: Rhone
Country: France
Wine Advocate: 96-98
Vinous Media: 96-98
James Suckling: 97-99
Jeb Dunnuck: 96-99
Red Wine
Alcohol by Volume: 14.5%
Price :
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"Still mostly in separate components, the 2016 Hermitage nevertheless looks sensational. Les Beaumes was very pretty and red fruited, with silky tannins (94 - 96). Le Méal was putting itself forward as plush and velvety, with flowers, crushed stone and ripe fruit (95 - 97). A combined sample of les Bessards and l'Hermite showed great, granite-derived structure allied to licorice and cassis (96 - 98).

Jean-Louis Chave graciously made time for an appointment, despite the fact that the 2018 harvest was underway, a vintage he was clearly excited about. "It's a very special year," he said. "Tremendous, amazing fruit." We started by sampling barrels of the 2017 Hermitage Blanc, then the mesmerizing 2016, which was bottled in August. I can't fathom how there can be so much less of this wine made than the red, yet it often sells for less. Wake up, people. Thomas Jefferson was right about this stuff when he wrote in 1791, “The white Hermitage is the first wine in the world, without a single exception.” If you're looking to prove that to yourself, try a well-stored example of the 1988, which at 30 years of age is just singing (full review below). We then moved into the 2017-vintage barrels of Saint-Joseph from Chave's own vineyards. The development of these sites near his home village of Mauves is destined to be Jean-Louis's legacy to the family business. For the moment, there are two bottlings, but more single-site bottlings may someday appear—perhaps in the not-too-distant future. Then on to the 2017 Hermitage barrels, a vintage Chave described as "a really good year." The 2016 Hermitage was still in barrel as components as well. Keep in mind that hail limited production, but the quality still looks outstanding. Finally, we tried the 2015 Hermitage and 2015 Cuvée Cathelin from bottle. Both are tremendous wines that are likely to outlive me. With four consecutive top-flight vintages (assuming 2018 comes out as projected), just buy as much as you can." (WA)

"Jean-Louis Chave showed me this unfinished wine in components. #1) Les Beaume: a gorgeous bouquet evokes red and blue fruit liqueur, incense, Asian spices and smoky minerals. Shows a very suave blend of depth and energy, silky texture and vibrant black raspberry and boysenberry flavors that spread out steadily on the back half. #2) Meal: much more firm and stern than the Les Beaume, showing bitter cherry, licorice and olive character and solid grip. Chewy and focused, but there's a core of appealingly sweet dark fruit as well. Opens up a bit with air, but this is solid and has a serious backbone. #3) Ermite: complex and intensely perfumed, displaying exotic floral and spice notes and powerful, alluringly sweet dark berry character. The floral quality dominates a very long, smooth finish where fine-grained tannins build slowly and in harmony with the dark fruit. #4) Bessards: Succulent and focused, displaying ripe dark fruit liqueur, spicecake and violet pastille qualities energized by vibrant spice and mineral flourishes. Sweet and densely packed yet animated, with superb clarity; a sexy cola nuance emerges on the back half. The mix of depth, power and energy here is textbook Chave, and this bottling will be a must-buy for those who can find and afford it." (VM)

"A wealth of floras with spiced dark chocolate, peppery notes, graphite, dark stones and grilled meats. There’s a very concentrated core of red and black fruit on the palate, weighing deep into the middle with super fine yet strong tannins wrapping up the wine. There is also enduring red-fruit freshness emerging into the finish. This is a great Hermitage that will deliver incredible age potential and enjoy an esteemed life in bottle. Barrel sample." (JS)

"I was able to taste the 2016 Hermitage from three separate tanks which are blended prior to bottling. All three samples showed brilliant purity of fruit, full body, a forward, seamless, elegant texture, and classic building minerality. This is haute couture at its finest and is pure class that could come from nowhere else. As with most 2016s, it's going to be relatively accessible in its youth, yet this is one Hermitage that's not going to hit maturity for another 8-10 years and will keep for three decades.

Taking over the from his father, Gerard Chave, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the brilliant Jean-Louis Chave continues to keep his family estate at the top of the heap in regard to true reference point estates in the world today. Drinking a mature Hermitage from the Chave family is one of the greatest wine experiences a wine lover can have. These are majestic, singular wines. And while it would have been easy to rest on his laurels and reputation, Jean-Louis has done nothing of the sort and has worked tirelessly at the estate, overseeing the creation of a new cellar that was completed in 2014 as well as resurrecting numerous new vineyard sites in Saint Joseph, which are just now coming largely online. In addition, he and his wife, Erin Cannon-Chave, have created a négociant label called Chave Selection that offers fabulous bang-for-the-buck and includes both Northern and Southern Rhônes. Looking specifically at their Hermitage releases, the grapes are always destemmed, with the individual terroirs vinified separately in stainless steel and aged in small barrels, most being used. The percentage of new oak has decreased over the past few decades and today hovers around 20-30% new French oak. Blending occurs a few months before bottling, and the wines are unfiltered.Looking at the vintages reviewed here, the 2015s are from a magical vintage in the Northern Rhône, and both Hermitage releases are as profound as wine gets. The Cuvée Cathelin is a deeper, richer, more exotic wine, but good luck finding bottles in the market. I include that wine in the handful of greatest young wines I’ve ever been lucky enough to taste. The classic Hermitage is more classic and elegant, with a rare sense of minerality, structure, and concentration. These are both Desert Island wines. The 2016 Hermitage shows the more elegant style of the vintage, but certainly isn’t far from the 2015. In addition, this estate continues to be a bastion for true Hermitage Blanc, and the 2016 Hermitage Blanc delivers the richness and depth as well as minerality that can only be achieved from this magical hillside. Thankfully, this estate has ignored the ridiculous trend over the past decade toward producing so-called “fresher” and more “elegant” wines. The 2017s showed beautifully from barrel and have the sunny, upfront nature of the vintage. They don’t have the sheer density of the 2015s, but they have more sex appeal than the 2016s. In short, you can’t go wrong with any of these wines, and life is too short not to drink as much Chave as you can!" (JD)