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1999s from Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Rhône

Paul Jaboulet Aîné S.A.,"Les Jalets"
RN 7 - BP 46 La-Roche-De-Glun
26 600 Tain l´Hermitage, France
Tel : +33 (0) 4 75846893
Fax : +33 (0) 4 75845614

Jaboulet is one of the most well known names in the Rhône, producing a wide array of wines. Many are inexpensive negociant bottles, but there are a handful of flagship wines produced from specified vineyard sites. The following notes are from a tasting at London merchant La Vigneronne in November 2001. As you might expect from a large producer, quality is solid even if some of the wines lack a bit of excitement. Jewel in the crown is Hermitage La Chapelle, which has an impressive track record, and enjoys iconic status. You'll notice from the notes that I was a little disappointed with how La Chapelle 1999 showed here. Even taking into account the fact that this is a wine destined for long ageing, and not designed to show well in its youth, it wasn't at all impressive. Tasted blind, without that magical label, I would probably have been even harder on it. It was outperformed here by Les Jumelles, Jaboulet's Côte Rôtie bottling, a nice effort that would be worth seeking out if it was a few quid cheaper. At £25, though, it's in direct competition with growers such as Ogier, Barge, Mouton and Jamet, who do better. It would be interesting to try most of these wines again in three years, to see whether they've developed some more interest. And I'll be looking to try La Chapelle 1999 again soon, to check that this wasn't a rogue bottle. Prices are those of La Vigneronne.

(Update: September 2003 - it seems my conclusions on La Chapelle 1999 were fair. Other reports have highlighted disappointing performance by this wine in the 1998, 1999 and 2000 vintages. I've tried the 2000 subsequently, and it was a poor effort, but then this was a tricky vintage. There's no explanation for 1999, which was a superb vintage generally in this region)

Hermitage Blanc Chevalier de Stérimberg 1999
A mid-yellow colour. Light floral nose with some rich, fat peachy and honey notes overlaying some subtle minerality. The palate is attractive and fat-textured, showing soft, lush peachy notes and just enough acidity to provide balance. There's a tiny bit of hollowness on the mid palate. It’s an interesting wine, but not my favourite style. Very good+ (£25)

Côtes du Rhône Parallèle 45 1999
Bright coloured. Some vigorous swirling coaxes out some earthy cherry fruit with a pleasant savoury edge. Juicy rounded fruit on the palate with a savoury, slightly mineral edge. Tasty if a little simple. Good/very good (£5)

Crozes Hermitage Les Jalets 1999
This is one of the better Les Jalets I've had. Very attractive primary raspberry fruit on the nose with some savoury depth. Palate shows a good concentration of juicy fruit with good acidity and just a touch of liquoricey, meaty complexity. Needs a bit of time. Very good+ (£6.50 for a limited period, normally £7.99)

Crozes Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert 1999
Normally a real step up from Les Jalets, this time it's disappointingly closed. The slightly muted nose shows pure raspberry fruit with a bit of herbiness. Quite rich and concentrated palate is still very youthful with primary fruit character and firm tannins. Good acidity. Richer-textured than Les Jalets this may yet develop into something interesting, but unyielding now. Very good (£11.67)

St Joseph La Grande Pompée 1999
Again, lots of rich primary raspberry fruit on the nose with some underlying richness. Palate is rich, ripe and fruity with good acid. There's a bit of tannin here and also some meaty hints. Very clean and youthful, give this one some time to open out. Very good (£9.80)

Côte Rôtie Les Jumelles 1999
A very nice wine; not quite up to the standards of the leading producers in this appellation (e.g. Jamet, Ogier, Gilles Barges), but still quite impressive. As well as bright fruit on the nose, there's some attractive, authentic meaty, green-olive character. Very pure and focused. Lovely savoury palate with more green olive and spice character. Medium bodied with firm tannins and high acidity. Very good/excellent (£25)

Hermitage La Chapelle 1999
Not giving much away on the nose: a touch of caramel, some herbs and a bit of raspberry fruit. The palate is quite closed with some wood influence evident: notes of caramel and spice, with some tannin also. It's not a particularly big wine – I’d describe it as medium bodied. Spicy finish. Disappointing at the moment. You'd have to hope that a wine like this will evolve some real complexity with time: after all, La Chapelle has quite a track record for this. Very good (£48.95)

Muscat de Baumes-de-Venise Reserve Pérsonelle 1999
Lovely lifted perfumed nose with a bright floral edge. This sweet wine is full of interest and not at all cloying. Although the palate is rich-textured, sweet and grapey, there's a lightness to it, with good acidity and a sugary, caramelized finish. Impressive stuff. Very good/excellent (£14.95)

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