Last year I giddily speculated whether the 2019 Hermitage La Chapelle would warrant a 100-point score. While close?and I wouldn't completely discount it reaching that pinnacle in another decade or two?I'm not sure this wine is as good as I thought. It boasts exciting aromas of roasted meat mocha crushed stone plum and cassis on the nose. It's full-bodied concentrated richly tannic and velvety in texture. It's long and complex on the finish adding hints of cracked pepper and salted licorice. And yet as much as I enjoyed tasting it and as undeniably great it is angels didn't sing from the heavens. Maybe next bottle. Between my hectic schedule of visits and Caroline Frey's racing around to direct harvesting in Switzerland Burgundy the Rhône and Bordeaux we were unable to connect in person this year. She deputized Robin Jullian a former cellar hand turned export manager to taste through the wines with me. The style of the white wines has changed somewhat although Jullian pointed out that they're actually more like they would have been in the distant past. Picking dates appear to have been moved forward and the wines are seeing much less oak than in recent history. The 2020 Hermitage Le Chevalier de Sterimberg for example is completely unoaked aged exclusively in concrete. I confess I had some difficulties grappling with this writing in my notes at one point "Nothing resembling Hermitage as we understand it." The reds were more consistent with my expectations with the 2019s looking particularly strong and cellar-worthy here and the 2020s (from barrel) being softer and more elegant. Might this be the next vintage of La Chapelle to crack triple digits? Knockout aromas of crushed stone violets blueberries and cassis mark the nose of the 2019 Hermitage La Chapelle while the full-bodied palate is undeniably more intense and powerful than the more elegant 2018. Rich and velvety it coats the mouth with dark fruit and creamy-textured espresso yet retains remarkable length and licorice-derived peppery freshness on the finish. Wow!
Compared to the La Maison Bleue the 2019 Hermitage La Chapelle is more closed tight and primary with a focused full-bodied style that carries impressive black and blue fruits graphite bloody meat and ample minerality. Structured and tannic yet wonderfully concentrated and pure it's not for those seeking instant gratification but it’s another stunning Hermitage in the making.