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Paul Jaboulet Aine: The Importance
A benchmark producer for Rhône wines, Jaboulet has faced its fair share of challenges over the last two decades, but it is now becoming clear that with the right guidance, Jaboulet is right back where it belongs as a top producer, creating some of the most exceptional wines in the region and dazzling critics and consumers alike.
Jaboulet produces a huge range of wines; in fact, they sell a range of more than 20 different wines, growing grapes across 26 different appellations in the Rhône, including Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Cornas, Gigondas, Côte-Rôtie, Crozes-Hermitage, St Joseph and Beaumes-de-Venise. There is also a range of white wines and the Parallele 45 range, the latter being an earlier drinking, more approachable style. Their Hermitage La Chapelle, however, is clearly the star, and has attracted widespread praise for its power and quality to become a legendary Rhône wine. Some of the best vintages for La Chapelle are 1978, 1989, 1990, 2009, 2010, 2012, with the most famous vintage of La Chapelle being the famed 1961 vintage, which Jancis Robinson describes as “legendary”, and “the Rhônes most famous red wine”.
The characteristics of La Chapelle in a good vintage are, as Robert Parker describes of the 2009, of a wine which is deeply coloured with “enormous concentration in addition to an extraordinary bouquet of graphite, crème de cassis, blackberries, licorice, beef blood and a touch of smoked game,” with several decades of longevity. As Jeb Dunnuck writes, “At its best, Syrah, or wine for that matter, simply cannot get any better.”
As Parker writes: “If you have been off the Jaboulet bandwagon over the last decade or so, now is the time to jump back on for both whites and reds.”
Paul Jaboulet Aine: The Insight
Having suffered a dip in quality towards the end of the Jaboulet family’s running of this estate, quality is now firmly on the rise, and as Parker writes, “it did not take long for Caroline Frey to whip this somewhat rudderless (following the death of Gerard Jaboulet in the late 1990’s) estate into shape.” The 2009 vintage was the first one which truly exemplified the amount of work that went into the estate since the change of hands, showcasing the estate’s return to the quality for which it had been known and loved for decades.
The domaine is planted with classic Rhône grape varieties; Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre for the red and Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier for the whites. Although the Hermitage La Chapelle is the most famous of the wines produced at the estate, several of the other wines produced here have received significant praise from critics such as Parker, including the Cornas Domaine de St Pierre, Crozes Hermitage Thalabert and the St Joseph Domaine de la Croix des Vignes, as well as praise for the white wines produced, such as the La Chapelle Blanc and the Hermitage Chevalier de Sterimberg.
Paul Jaboulet Aine: The Background
Paul Jaboulet Aîné et Fils was originally founded in 1834 by Antoine Jaboulet, who passed it down to his two sons, Paul and Henri, the eldest of which gave his name to the estate. Over the years, it has been run by several different members of the Jaboulet family, with Louis Jaboulet and his son Jacques being responsible for some of the estate’s most outstanding vintages such as 1949, 1959 and 1961. Later, the estate was taken over by Jacques and his brother Gérard, when Louis retired in 1977, and many attribute the fluctuation in quality at Jaboulet with Gérard’s tragic passing in 1997. It is remarkable that this estate was able to stay in the hands of one family for so many years, showcasing the values of tradition and consistency, however it is clear that the more recent change of hands has done wonders for the estate and marks a new era in this estates rich history.
The estate was purchased in January 2006 by Jean-Jacques Frey whose family are investors in the Champagne house Billecart-Salmon and who own the Bordeaux château of La Lagune. His daughter, oenologist Caroline Frey, who was in charge of the wine-making at La Lagune took over the running of the estate with help from winemaker Jacques Desvernois and immediately started implementing changes such as doubling the amount of staff employed by the vineyard, moving all viticulture towards organic farming and slashing yields, all in order to improve the quality of the wine produced. This has clearly been a resounding success, and as Jeb Dunnuck writes, “this estate is well on its way toward making future legends such as the '61, '78 and '90.”
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