Jaboulet Hermitage La Maison Bleue (1.5 liter Magnum) 2017
Along the Petite Pierrelle street, not far from the stream of Torras and the road where the blackbirds sing, lies the pretty Maison Bleue. Leaning against the Hermitage Hill, one of the most beautiful vineyards in the world, this small stone house with blue shutters was once a real haven of peace for their winegrowers: a place to work, rest and share located in the heart of a legendary terroir. Today, this house of winegrowers has regained a new youth. Winegrowers and horses take shelter from time to time. The Maison Bleue still serves as a shelter for their grapes to dry the straw wine when they produce it. This year, they will use its space to dry their plants for biodynamic preparations. A new life in the respect of traditions.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Jaboulet's 2017 Hermitage La Maison Bleue is flat-out sexy stuff, full-bodied, plush and generous without being overripe or unstructured. Licorice, cassis and Asian five-spice powder burst from the glass in a complex whirl of scents and flavors. Sourced from the eastern end of the appellation, it offers immediate gratification and admirable quality at a fraction of the price of the La Chapelle.
This is utterly delicious and has a very plush and sweetly fruited core of flavor with a sweepingly fleshy, rich and quite plush feel. The tannins are very fine here; sleek and assertive, they seem to suggest early drinking. It’s so balanced, too. However, this deserves to be reserved for later, as there’s a lot more to come.
There are 2,000 cases of the 2017 Hermitage La Maison Bleue, which is all from the more limestone and loamy soils on the eastern side of the appellation. Aged in 15% new barrels and demi-muids, it has a youthful, fruit-forward, even sexy profile as well as terrific notes of black raspberries, melted licorice, truffles, violets, and bloody meat. It’s young and unevolved, with beautiful depth of fruit, and it’s undeniably better than many vintages of La Chapelle from the 1990s and 2000s.
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)."
One of the smallest and most important Syrah regions of northern Rhone, Hermitage is practically one single south-facing slope of crushed granite, thinly covered with varied, yet well-charted soil types. Many climats (well identified parcels) exist within Hermitage and while some smaller producers make single climat Syrahs, some larger ones blend to make one balanced expression of the appellation.
Though the AC regulations allow the addition of up to 15% white grapes to a red Hermitage, in practice it is usually made from Syrah alone. Winemaking is pretty traditional—or you might say historic—with hot fermentations and aging in older barrels of various sizes. The best wines, characterized by deep, dense and sexy flavors of black fruit, cocoa, licorice and tobacco, have massive textures and a solid 10-20 years aging potential.
The region of Hermitage is totally enclosed; the only place it could go really is to literally fall down its own hill into the city of Tain or the Rhone River. Soil erosion is a problem and terraces exist alongside the hill in order to keep the earth in place. Crozes-Hermitage encloses the region entirely to its north and south.
While Hermitage seems synonymous with some of the best Syrah on the planet, actually about one third of the wine produced here comes from white grapes. The full, lush and robust Marsanne or the less common, but almost more charming, Roussanne create wonderful whites in which the best have great potential for aging, like the reds.
Marked by an unmistakable deep purple hue and savory aromatics, Syrah makes an intense, powerful and often age-worthy red. Native to the Northern Rhône, Syrah achieves its maximum potential in the steep village of Hermitage and plays an important component in the Red Rhône Blends of the south, adding color and structure to Grenache and Mourvèdre. Syrah is the most widely planted grape of Australia and is important in California and Washington. Sommelier Secret—Such a synergy these three create together, the Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre trio often takes on the shorthand term, “GSM.”