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THE TOP 100 COLLECTIBLE WINES

#41 - 1999 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage

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The motto emblazoned on every Chave label reads, "Vignerons de Pere en Fils depuis 1481," meaning, "Vine growers from father to son since 1481." The family began cultivating wine along the St. Joseph appellation before moving to Hermitage. Today, Jean Louis Chave is the 16th generation to own the Hermitage estate. The Chave family treasures their strong connection to this area, and are strong believers in the Rhone terroir, using only techniques that enhance the natural flavors of the grapes.

Jean-Louis Chave and his family own the largest portion of vines in the appellation, and as such, they grow grapes on the oldest vines in the region. Their Syrah is grown on vines that average about 50 years old. Most of the Rhone blends in this region combine Syrah with white grapes, but Chave uses far fewer white grapes in its Hermitage than the appellation allows. The estate uses malolactic fermentation for most of its vintages, and ages the wine in oak barrels that contain about 10 to 20 percent new oak.

The 1999 northern Rhone weather brought on one of the best vintages of the decade. A warm, sunny July and August supplied large quantities of highly-concentrated, sweet Syrah grapes which gave the 1999 Chave Hermitage bold flavor and tannins. Jancis Robinson has compared 1999 vintages to those of the iconic 1947, though with unusually high yields for Rhone. The ample yields allowed the Chave family to be very selective, including only the most robust grapes in the final bottles.