Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Blanc 2007
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
There are a dozen or so named vineyards in Hermitage, and Chave owns vines in most of them. They vinify each separately, which allows them to blend for greater complexity before bottling.
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.
Full-bodied and flavorful, white Rhône blends originate from France’s Rhône Valley. Today these blends are also becoming popular in other regions, proving most successful in Spain, Australia and California. Typically some combination of Grenache blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier form the basis of a white Rhône blend with varying degrees of flexibility depending on the exact appellation.
In the Glass
Each variety contibutes something unique and different. Round, textural Grenache blanc gives green apple and white stone fruit flavors; weighty Marsanne adds structure and honeysuckle aromas; russet-colored Roussanne lends intriguing herbal, tea-like notes while Viognier provides a creamy texture and elegant aromatics. The flavor of the final wine will depend on the chosen components of the blend and their respective proportions.
White Rhône blends are quite versatile food pairing wines and can work with light to medium rich meals that might often be matched to red wines. Heavier fish dishes with bold seasoning like grilled swordfish with caper butter or baked, herb-crusted mahi mahi are natural allies for these flavorful wines. Other ideal dishes include roast pork in mustard sauce, poached lobster with beurre blanc, or a rich and savory vegetable quiche. `
In the Northern Rhône, blends of Marsanne and Roussanne are common in the appellations of St.-Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage and St-Péray. Condrieu and Château-Grillet can produce single-varietal Viognier only. The Southern Rhône, on the other hand, has much more variety, with many more permitted grapes including the ones named above as well as Bourboulenc, Clairette, Picpoul and Ugni Blanc.