Wednesday Wines – Episode 39 – Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné tasting with Caroline Frey

Episode 39 – 23rd December 2020

Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné tasting with Caroline Frey

The Ultimate Viticultrice

I would ordinarily publish a piece as important as this one under my Members title, Taste, on this website, but I felt that everyone should be able to read about these extraordinary wines and so, in this season of goodwill, it appears today in my Wednesday Wines slot which is free to view for ALL.

I was fortunate, during lockdown, to taste the new Jaboulet releases with owner/oenologist Caroline Frey over a Zoom call.  Here are my notes on this extraordinary collection of wines.  There are no prices listed here because there is only a smattering of stock on the market, according to a brief search on the internet, but if you are keen to secure stock I would advise you to speak to Hedonism, Jeroboams, Noel Young, Tanners, Avery’s or Berry Bros & Rudd wine merchants as they will be able to order the wines in for you.

White

2019 Crozes Hermitage, La Mule Blanche, Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné

50% Marsanne, 50% Roussanne; 40 – 60-year-old vines; Concrete eggs and French oak barrels (15% new)

A vitally crisp and refreshing vintage for La Mule Blanche, with bright citrus notes and faint hints of honeysuckle and greengage, this is a thrilling interpretation of this famous label and it has never looked fitter nor more toned.  No doubt the fruit will blossom over time but this wine will always retain a welcome crisp and refreshing air.  17.5/20 (Drink now  – 2024)

2019 Crozes Hermitage, Domaine de Roure, Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné

100% Marsanne; 60-year-old vines with some as old as 100; Concrete eggs and French oak barrels (15% new)

By contrast to La Mule Blanche this is a monastically calm and introverted wine with racy minerality controlling the ginger and stone fruit flashes.  This is an amazing gem of a Marsanne and one which is sure to unravel and billow beautifully over the next six or seven years.  I have no doubt that this will be one of the bargains of the vintage when we look back in a few years’ time.  18+/20 (Drink 2022 – 2027)

2019 Hermitage, Le Chevalier de Sterimberg, Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné

70% Marsanne, 30% Roussanne; 35-year-old vines; Concrete eggs and French oak barrels (15% new)

There is extraordinary equilibrium in this sensational wine.  It is so finely balanced it is baffling, and the depth and richness is offset with the most dramatic acid and strident minerality I have seen in a wine of this style.  There are profound meadow-flower and stone fruit flavour here which enchant the senses but they are marshalled brilliantly by the citrus pith and green apple skin raspiness on the finish.  This is the most exciting Chevalier I have ever tasted and it rivals the very best whites from this region and others besides.  19+/20 (Drink 2022 – 2035)

Red

2018 Crozes Hermitage, Domaine de Thalabert, Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné

100% Syrah; 40-60-year-old vines; French oak barrels (20% new)

This is an amazingly impressive Thalabert with a blackberry-soaked core, superb density and a liberal dusting of iodine, spice and dried herbs.  The peppery tones on the nose run the length of the palate, too, making this one of the spiciest and most fruit-drenched releases in years.  Drinking well already on account of its precise balance, there is enough tension here to allow this wine to age for a further ten or even fifteen years.  I would recommend buying this cuvée in magnums if you can find them!  17.5+/20 (Drink now – 2035)

2018 Crozes Hermitage, Domaine de Roure, Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné

100% Syrah; 40-60-year-old vines; French oak barrels (20% new)

This is an astounding release with so much density of fruit it is astonishing.   Blood-soaked, mineral, pagan and elemental, there is so much connection to the earth in this deep, dark-hued Syrah it is shocking.  There is more obvious drama and also luxury here than found in the classically-shaped Thalabert and it has the potential to evolve more, too.  I finished my hand-written tasting note with one word – ‘epic’!  18.5+/20 (Drink 2022 – 2032)

2018 Saint Joseph, La Croix des Vignes, Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné

100% Syrah; 10-30-year-old vines; French oak barrels (20% new)

There is less obvious pepper here than is found in the Crozes duo and there is more flesh and exoticism.  Forward-drinking, velvety, layered and enticing, this is arguably the most approachable of the reds in this collection and it certainly has enough horsepower to last for a decade or more.  I sense that gaminess and not spice or herb notes, as one might ordinarily expect, will come to the fore in time.  18/20 (Drink 2020 – 2030)

2018 Cornas, Domaine de Saint Pierre, Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné

100% Syrah; 10-60-year-old vines; French oak barrels (20% new)

There is a powerful sense of the granitic soil coming through in this muscular wine and it has a backward stance with meatiness and an overriding feeling of cool earth as opposed to ripe grapes!  You have to wait right until the finish to feel the black fruit ripple on the palate.  There is terrific grip here and this is a wine which will take a long time to evolve and open up.  Into what shape will this wine metamorphose?  It is sure to be a fascinating ride and I feel that red fruits and rose petal notes will be sure to appear in due course and I will be there to watch with fascination.  18+/20 (Drink 2024 – 2035)

2018 Côte Rôtie, Les Pierelles, Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné

100% Syrah; 20-30-year-old vines; French oak barrels (20% new)

It seems counterintuitive to write that a Côte Rôtie could be lithe, pure and refreshing but this one is!  While the willowy chassis has a glossiness and slickness to the touch there is a lip-smacking crispness which lifts the palate and caresses the senses.  Is there such a thing as ‘lunchtime Côte Rôtie’?  There is now!  This wine is a joy and it lacks any unnecessary grunt or brawn and this makes it a great pleasure to drink.  18/20 (Drink 2023 – 2035)

2018 Hermitage, La Maison Bleue, Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné

100% Syrah; 40-60-year-old vines; French oak barrels (20% new)

This is one of the most extraordinary wines of the year and it is everything that I find mesmerising about the Syrah grape in one wine.  There is so much black and red fruit here, swirling like a vortex on the palate, it is fascinating.  But it is also remarkable for some of the criteria that it lacks.   There is no heavy extraction or drying tannin, nor is there a molecule too much oak imprint.  Without these powerful notes swarming this wine, there is room for it to breathe and add volume to its delivery relying solely on the earth beneath its feet and the purity of its first class fruit.  The density of flavour is, therefore, all the more remarkable because the black and red cherry notes are sensational with spice dotted throughout and it is saturated with tenderness and sensuality as opposed to unnecessary weight and musculature.  2018 La Maison Bleue marries wild fruit notes with unfathomable polish and grace and this makes it a unicorn wine in this part of the world.  19+/20 (Drink 2023 – 2040)

2018 Hermitage, La Chapelle, Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné

100% Syrah; 40-95-year-old vines; French oak barrels (20% new)

La Chapelle is a much more structured wine than La Maison Bleue and it is more backward, too, but it lacks nothing in terms of plushness and volume of flavour.  Exquisite from start to finish, this is a noble creation with layers of spice and earth intermingled with sheer decadence.  Nothing is forced here and it commands your attention every step of the way.  There is so much detail here is requires multiple visits to the glass to take it all in.  Calm, centred, dense and, at the same time, ethereal, like La Maison Bleue there is fabulous poise and polish here which underlines just how much sensitivity is employed both in the vineyard and also the winery.  The oak is an irrelevance because I cannot sense it at all.  I can see how it has cradled the fruit but I cannot taste the seasoning because these grapes have so much unbuilt flavour history they would swamp a forest of trees with ease.  This wine may sit at the pinnacle of the Jaboulet portfolio but every wine here is cut from a similar cloth and assembled with the same care and attention and so it is each and every plot of land which is celebrated at this Domaine.  This means that each wine is a worthy and contributing member of this Caroline’s family of wines and La Chapelle is, most definitely, its guiding light.  19.5+/20 (Drink 2025 – 2045)