Jean-Louis Chave makes some of the greatest wines in the Rhône. The Hermitage and Saint-Joseph he produces from his family estate are among the best of their respective appellations. Naturally this level of quality doesn’t come cheap, so they are a rare treat even to committed Rhône lovers like me.
Although he doesn’t produce second wines, Jean-Louis does have a négociant label, J.L. Chave Sélection, a range of wines produced from younger estate vines and sometimes bought-in fruit as well. They are made just as diligently as the wines from his estate, but are considerably cheaper.
There are six wines in the collection:
Côtes-du-Rhône Rouge ‘Mon Coeur’
Crozes-Hermitage Rouge ‘Silène’
Saint-Joseph Blanc ‘Circa’
Saint-Joseph Rouge ‘Offerus’
Hermitage Rouge ‘Farconnet’
Hermitage Blanc ‘Blanche’
The 2015 vintage was exceptionally good in the Northern Rhône, and the 2015 vintage of the Cotes-du-Rhône, the Crozes-Hermitage and the Saint-Joseph Blanc are now available in the UK. All are excellent and well worth getting your hands on. I’ll write up the remaining three when they’re released.
J.L. Chave Sélection Côtes-du-Rhône Rouge ‘Mon Coeur’ 2015 (14.5% ABV)
£80.00 per 12 bottles in bond (equivalent of £10.60 per bottle including taxes), A&B Vintners
45% Grenache, 40% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre mostly from the Southern Rhône villages of Vinsobres, Rasteau and Cairanne. Blackberry, loganberry and the faintest whiff of bonfire, all very enticing. It’s the palate that really makes an impression though, this is a remarkably well tailored and sophisticated Côtes-du-Rhône – one of the finest I’ve tasted labelled under this modest appellation. Lush, but well balanced, with a richly textured mouthfeel and juicy berry acidity. Very good value at under £11 a bottle – essential mid-week drinking.
90 points, 2017-2019
J.L. Chave Sélection Crozes-Hermitage Rouge ‘Silène’ 2015 (14% ABV)
£130.00 per 12 bottles in bond (equivalent of £15.60 per bottle including taxes), A&B Vintners
Sleek, cool and fragrant, this is a very pure expression of Syrah from Crozes-Hermitage. Plenty of ripe berry fruit and a straight, tailored profile make for a considered and precise wine. Well balanced and well judged. Good value at less than £16 a bottle.
91 points, 2017-2020
J.L. Chave Sélection Saint-Joseph Blanc ‘Circa’ 2015 (14% ABV)
£25.25 per bottle including taxes, Yapp
Pure Roussanne. A discrete nose of honeycomb and vanilla over yellow pear and quince, with integrated oak. Unashamedly full-bodied, rich in glycerol and flavour; acidity is on the low side, but it retains a sense of freshness. It takes its time to saunter over the senses. Dry yet generous on the finish, which is lengthened by an ember of toasty oak. Fairly priced at £25 for a wine of this class.
92 points, 2017-2019
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Matt Walls first got into wine working in an off-licence in Brighton. He has since worked for Bollinger Champagne and helped manage and buy wines for The Sampler, one of London's best wine shops. He now spends half his time writing about wine and the other half collaborating on various wine-related projects. His first book, Drink Me!, was recently published by Quadrille and has sold over 10,000 copies.
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- Guy Farge Saint-Joseph Blanc 'Vania' 2016, Northern Rhône, France
Just 6% of Rhône Valley wine is white, but it’s well worth exploring. This Saint-Joseph was a stand-out during my recent masterclass on white Rhône at the London Wine Fair. Guy Farge is a fourth-generation winemaker at his family estate and is making some stunning wines. This has aromas of honeysuckle, apricot, toasted almonds and lemon pith. It’s full-bodied, but there's a wonderful tension in the wine, and a balance coming not just from acidity, but also subtle bitterness and a saline streak that I often find in wines grown on granite. Not hugely complex right now, but energetic and textural, with a long finish. Hugely drinkable, deeply satisfying. It’s not cheap but it is fairly priced for this level of quality at £23.99. The 2016 hasn’t quite reached the UK yet, but Bybo have the 2014 (click through).
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