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Jaboulet Beaumes de Venise Muscat 1999
Paul Jaboulet Aîné has been a trend-setting grower and shipper in the Rhône since 1834. The Jaboulet company was founded by Antoine Jaboulet, and his twin sons, Paul and Henri continued to expand the family business. The elder son ("aîné" in French), Paul, established the company in its present form and gave it his own name. Since then, the company has been run by successive generations of sons from that side of the Jaboulet family.
The House of Paul Jaboulet Aîné is one of the Rhône’s most recognizable wineries. The reputation of Jaboulet wines rests on the quality of the well-situated and well-tended vineyards, on low yields, careful vinification, and diligent aging in oak casks. The Jaboulet family prefers carefully integrated oak aging, in which the influence of wood is never allowed to become excessive. Since this is an important point, they have their own cooper who makes and maintains their stock of barrels.
Jaboulet wines symbolize robustness and elegance, essential qualities of great wines. Their crown jewel is their Hermitage "La Chapelle" which Clive Coates states "is one of the great red wines of the world." Thomas Matthews of Wine Spectator has singled out Jaboulet as a producer which "offers reliable wines across the entire range of appellations (in the northern and southern Rhône)."
A long and narrow valley producing flavorful red, white, and pink wines, the Rhône is bisected by the river of the same name and split into two distinct sub-regions—north and south. While a handful of grape varieties span the entire length of the valley, there are significant differences between the two zones in climate and geography as well as the style and quantity of wines produced. The Northern Rhône, with its continental climate and steep hillside vineyards, is responsible for a mere 5% or less of the greater region’s total output. The Southern Rhône has a much more Mediterranean climate, the aggressive, chilly Mistral wind, and plentiful fragrant wild herbs known collectively as ‘garrigue.’
In the Northern Rhône, the only permitted red variety is Syrah. In the appellations of St.-Joseph, Hermitage, Cornas, and Côte-Rôtie (where up to 20% Viognier may be co-fermented), it produces savory, peppery wines with telltale notes of olive, bacon fat, and smoke. Oily, perfumed whites are made from Viognier in Condrieu and Château-Grillet, while elsewhere only Marsanne and Roussanne are used, with the former providing body and texture and the latter lending nervy acidity. The wines of the Southern Rhône are typically blends, with the reds often based on Grenache and balanced by Syrah, Mourvèdre, and an assortment of other varieties. All three northern white varieties are used here, as well as Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourbelenc, and more. The best known sub-regions of the Southern Rhône are the reliable, wallet-friendly Côtes du Rhône and the esteemed Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Others include Gigondas, Vacqueyras, and rosé-only appellation Tavel.
Apart from the classics, we find many regional gems of different styles.
Late harvest wines are probably the easiest to understand. Grapes are picked so late that the sugars build up and residual sugar remains after the fermentation process. Ice wine, a style founded in Germany and there referred to as eiswein, is an extreme late harvest wine, produced from grapes frozen on the vine, and pressed while still frozen, resulting in a higher concentration of sugar. It is becoming a specialty of Canada as well, where it takes on the English name of ice wine.
Vin Santo, literally “holy wine,” is a Tuscan sweet wine made from drying the local white grapes Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia in the winery and not pressing until somewhere between November and March.