by Giles Cadman – Venulum
Paul Jaboulet Aîné, one of the Rhône’s legendary estates, was founded at some point (it is not known exactly when) in the 19th century, with records showing that there was a Jaboulet making wine in Tain l’Hermitage by the mid 1830s. Since that point it has expanded to include vineyard holdings spanning the entire Rhône valley with a presence in almost every prized appellation, but it is arguably the estate’s land in Hermitage at the northern end of the valley that has enhanced its reputation to a point where it is one of the most highly sought after wines in the world.
Having remained under the control of generation after generation of the same family, Paul Jaboulet Aîné was sold in 2005, the reason being given that French inheritance laws necessitated the move. Reading between the lines one wonders if it had got to the point whereby there were so many family members with an interest in the business that it had become impossible to make decisions as a unit for the good of the estate, or that there were simply a sufficient number of stakeholders who had no real interest in its progression. (A sad situation to be in, if that was indeed the case, especially after 170-odd years of ownership by the same family).
Nonetheless, the Hermitage La Chapelle is often an astounding wine, regularly nearing perfection (both before and since the sale), and occasionally reaching it, as with the legendary 1978 I was lucky enough to taste a few years ago.
The 1990 is also a wine with a perfect Parker score, although I have encountered significant bottle variation over the course of my experience with it over the last decade or so. It has ranged from the truly sublime to the merely good, however always with the balance thankfully in favour of the former. I have typically experienced cassis, black fruit, violet, leather and spice with a smooth and powerful palate and lovely mineral notes. At 22 years of age it always strikes me just how young this wine looks and tastes, and good examples would surely benefit from a further decade at least in bottle. Often a majestic wine, one is greeted with enveloping layers of complexity fanning out on the lengthy finish. When it’s good, it’s very, very good… so here’s to more of the same from the rest of my case please!
You can buy this wine from Cadman Fine Wines.