As I wrote last year from barrel the 2018 Hermitage La Chapelle is a backward primordial Hermitage built for the ages. Incredible crème de cassis blueberries scorched earth burning embers and liquid violet-like aromas and flavors dominate the bouquet and this beauty is full-bodied concentrated and powerful on the palate. With just hints of the smoky meaty beefy character that emerges from all aged examples of this cuvée it has incredible tannins perfect balance and a monster of a finish. Don't think about touching bottles for at least 7-8 years and it's going to keep for 50 years or more. ****************************** A deep powerful primordial wine (which is exactly what you’d expect for a great vintage of this cuvée) the inky hued 2018 Hermitage La Chapelle offers tons of crème de cassis as well as a liquid rock-like minerality peppery herbs burning embers and graphite aromas and flavors. The palate mirrors the intensity of the bouquet and is full-bodied concentrated and tight yet still packs a huge amount of baby fat. The 2018 is a beautifully pure balanced massively endowed La Chapelle that will need a decade of cellaring and keep for 3-4 decades with no problems. Readers who love older vintages of Jaboulet’s flagship Hermitage La Chapelle should be happy with how owner Caroline Frey has managed this domaine since taking over in 2006. She has singlehandedly brought this estate back to its former glory particularly with their Hermitage releases. Their second wine today the Maison Bleue is unquestionably a better wine than many past vintages of their flagship La Chapelle and I suspect will age even longer.jd
The beautifully proportioned 2018 Hermitage La Chapelle comes across as a complex complete version of this renowned bottling with no rough edges?just moderate spice cassis red berries and cedar on the nose. It's medium to full-bodied silky and fine brimming with harmony and elegance on the palate while the finish is long echoing with cassis charcoal and crushed stone. The tannins firm up a bit on the finish so I suspect this will close down soon then blossom sometime after 2025. When I spoke with her via Zoom in mid-December Caroline Frey was candid in discussing her COVID-19 experience. "I was thinking ?I'm young. I do a lot of sports?? she said assuming that even if she caught it she wouldn't be hugely affected. But when she contracted the virus she lost her sense of smell and she said it was just starting to come back as we tasted through the 2018s and 2019s from Paul Jaboulet Aîné. According to Frey in 2018 the vineyards received plenty of rain from March through June followed by dry windy conditions which kept the vines healthy. Harvest began on August 27th and extended through September 25th. "There's something powerful and pure in 2018" she said. "It's a mix of ?15 (power) and ?16 (purity)." Referencing the 2018 Domaine de Thalabert Frey said "We have the power and density but not like ?03. The wine is still bringing freshness and balance." The 2019 season was characterized by a cool spring and a slow start to the growing season but that was followed by intense heat including 10 days of temperatures that exceeded 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). A major hailstorm struck Crozes-Hermitage in mid-June leading to extensive crop losses (up to 60% according to Frey) followed by another smaller hail event in July that affected parts of Hermitage and Saint-Joseph. Despite those storms parts of the vineyards still experienced hydric stress so picking didn't begin until September 11 and concluded on September 27. "We had smaller berries and thicker skins than in 2018" she said. "We did a very soft extraction?more like an infusion. When we have these levels of richness we imagine the finish may be unbalanced but that's not the case. We have length and freshness." Both of these vintages are hugely successful at Jaboulet no doubt because of the team's ability to deal with the hot dry conditions. As Frey said "The biggest challenge is to have the ripeness from the vines and not just the sun." All of the wines?including the substantial volumes of the Côtes du Rhône Parallele 45?have now been certified organic (produced from organically grown grapes as defined by U.S. terms as sulfur is added) with the estate wines being grown biodynamically since 2015. Because they are made in the same facility as some non-biodynamically grown wines they're not certified for the time being.