2016 J. L. Chave Saint-Joseph

Year: 2016
Appellation: Rhone
Country: France
Wine Advocate: 92-94
Vinous Media: 92-94
James Suckling: 95-96
Jeb Dunnuck: 93
Red Wine
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"I tasted several parcels that will go into the 2016 Saint Joseph, rating them all in this range. All were distinctive in their own ways, from the perfumed, floral notes and elegance of Les Challeys to the almost jammy cherry flavors of Les Oliviers and the dark-fruited precision of Le Clos.

Several years ago, a visit to Chave was an education in the lieux-dits of Herrmitage. Today, the lessons include a look at numerous plots in Saint-Joseph as well. Jean-Louis has made the appellation where the winery is situated a pet project, and he wears his passion for it on his sleeve. It was interesting to taste through the 2015s and 2016s here, noting points of similarity and difference. Hermitage was hit by a freak hailstorm in April 2016, which had the effect of severely limiting yields in many of the parcels. The difference in concentration between 2015 and 2016 in Hermitage is correspondingly much less than in the other appellations. When I visited in early November 2017, Jean-Louis was just beginning to put together the blend for the 2015 Hermitage, which he admitted he’s only just started to warm up to. “It took until the end of élevage for the wines to express their place,” he said." (WA)

"I tasted the components that will ultimately make up this wine, as usual. #1) Chaillets: olive paste, smoky bacon and dark berry liqueur qualities, with subtle floral and mineral undertones. #2): Dardouille: intensely spicy and focused, displaying powerful blue fruit character, impressive depth and building violet and spice notes. #3) Baschasson: heady, mineral-accented black and blue fruit qualities, along with suave incense and potpourri nuances and mounting spiciness. This is looking to shape up as an uncommonly powerful wine for the vintage, but the buffering mineral and spice character could bring its energy level up - the fruit is really blasting away right now." (VM)

"Super floral. Violets, fragrant and fine-ground white peppers, dark plums and black stones, spices and dark chocolate notes too. The palate has finesse, detail, power and impressive balance. There’s a plump red-fruited core that is really muscular. Expansive body building to an astutely balanced and elegant finish. Graphite to close. Brilliant. Barrel Sample." (JS)

"Leading off the 2016s and tasted out of bottle, the 2016 Saint Joseph is rock-solid and shines in the vintage. Brought up all in older oak (Jean-Louis stated that he doesn't think Saint Josephs like oak) and offers plenty of darker, mineral, and smoked earth notes that slowly open up with more red fruits and spice. It's beautifully elegant and silky on the palate, with ample mid-palate heft, medium to full body, and sweet tannins. Put a case in the cellar and drink bottles over the coming decade or so.

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)