Domaine Jean-Louis Chave is one of the Northern Rhone’s most important producers, along with Chapoutier and Thierry Allemand. The Chaves are also one of the world’s great winemaking dynasties, like the Antinoris in Tuscany and Hugels in Alsace. Chave produces not only excellent red Hermitage—a blend of grapes from parcels in seven different sections of that summit of Syrah—but also one of the world’s great white wines—Chave Hermitage Blanc.
Syrah is a black grape that, unlike Pinot Noir, is relatively easy to grow and to make great wines from. Unfortunately, while it is a grape that is popular with winemakers, and there are many very well made and reasonably priced bottlings on the market, it has yet to gain much respect among U.S. consumers.
I wasn’t expecting much from 2008 Northern Rhones after reading about the heavy rains that fell there, especially in early September, and the predominantly cool and overcast weather that hung over most of the growing season. So it was exciting to taste these 2008s from two of the best producers in the Northern Rhone, Jean-Louis Chave and Thierry Allemand, who seem to have pulled some delectable rabbits out of rain soaked hats in 2008.
I have been a very, very lucky guy this year. Out of the 4,923 wines on which I’ve recorded notes, 21 were so extraordinary I gave them scores of 97 points or higher. That’s less than half a percent of the wines I tasted this year, but what an amazing, memorable collection of wines they were. One of them, the 1994 Quinto do Noval Nacional, rated a perfect score. Another rated 99, while six merited 98 points and 13 more received 97s.