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Vintage Pairs Round 18, 13th June 2018

In this session of Vintage Pairs, we served:

Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné - Hermitage Blanc 'Chevalier de Sterimberg', 2014 & 2010

Paul Jaboulet Aîné have been owners at Hermitage since 1889. The Jaboulet family sold the company to the Frey family in 2006. Caroline Frey and her team took over the winemaking and have done a great job over the past decade, especially improving the quality of the whites.

The name “Chevalier de Sterimberg” comes from the knight Gaspard de Sterimberg, who settled in Hermitage and built the iconic stone chapel that sits atop the hill. The grapes for this wine come from four sections of the Hermitage hill: Rocoule, Maison Blanche, La Croix and Les Murets. Soils vary from small limestone galets in Rocoule to clay to fine sand in La Croix. The grape makeup of the wine is 70% Marsanne and 30% Roussanne, and these are 60+ year old vines that are farmed biodynamically. The wine is aged in 55% French oak, with 5% of that new oak, 25% older demi-muids, and 20% small concrete eggs.

With this pair, we taste wines four years apart in age. The 2014 vintage was a strong one for whites due to the long growing season and late harvest. Because of these conditions, the whites have good concentration, ripeness and complexity. For 2010, Decanter’s wine expert, John Livingstone-Learmonth described the 2010 vintage as one of his top three vintages during his 40 years covering the Rhône, right up there with 1978 and 1990. The 2010 vintage in the Northern Rhône was quite strong for the whites; it’s one where the terroir of each vineyard shined through.

 

Lucien Le Moine - Clos de la Roche Grand Cru, 2014 & 2005

Lucien Le Moine is a micro-négociant that was established in 1999, by Mounir Saouma and Rotem Brakin. It’s a name they created that translates to, “enlightened monk”. Mounir worked at a Trappist Monastery in his home of Lebanon and learned about Pinot Noir and Chardonnay there, so that’s where they took the inspiration for the name. Then, Mounir went on to study eneology at the ENSAM Montpelier. He went on to work at wineries in Burgundy, other areas of France and in California before starting Lucien Le Moine with Rotem. She is from a cheesemaking family. Rotem is from Israel and studied agriculture with a focus on wine at the Technion and ENESAD in Dijon. After living and working in Burgundy and establishing relationships with top growers there, Mounir and Rotem decided to start Lucien Le Moine to produce the best examples of the premier crus and grand crus from each village in the Côte d’Or.

The production is one to three barrels per cru (300-900 bottles). Rotem and Mounir taste the jus-wine just after the press, buy it and put it in their barrels. The oak is from the Jupilles forest, and the barrels are produced especially for the crus and the vintages with a regimen of slow toast on coals. The wines are kept 100% on their lees during ageing, and there is no racking prior to bottling. The wines are aged in 100% new French oak. Because the wines are never pumped, no racking, no filtering, and the bottles are filled by gravity, the natural CO2 from the malolactic fermentation is still present in the wine. Rotem and Mounir like this CO2 as a natural protector of the wine, so the use of sulphur is very limited. However, as a result of this CO2, the wines must be decanted prior to serving.

The 2014 and 2005 being 11 years apart should offer an interesting comparison and insights on how these wines age. These are both strong vintages with differing attributes. Let’s see if we’re able to pick them out as being from the same producer given the contrasting nature of the vintages.

 

Château Sociando-Mallet, 2001 & 1990

Château Sociando-Mallet is 83 hectares located north of St. Estephe in the village of Saint Seurin de Cadourne. Initially, the estate was only 5 hectares when the current proprietor Jean Gautreau purchased it in 1969. The current plantings are 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 47% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. These vines are grown in gravel with a subsoil of limestone, sand and clay. The average age of the vines is 30-years-old. Sociando is quite unique in Bordeaux because they do not green harvest, and their yields are quite high. The wine is aged for approximately twelve months in 95% new French oak barrels with the remainder in cement tanks.

The 2001 vintage in Bordeaux is one that often gets overlooked as it came after the highly touted 2000 vintage. However, 2001 is another strong vintage. For some Châteaux 2001 isn’t as powerful and concentrated as the 2000 vintage, but at Sociando, even the 2001 has this intense character. For those in the know about Sociando, this wine is a vintage to buy.

The 1990 vintage for Sociando is another one to buy. It rivals the 1982, and again shows the quality of this Haut-Médoc Château which performs well above its class. This wine will be fun to taste blind tonight to see if we place it in the Haut-Médoc or as a First or Second Growth.

 

Dominus, 2006 & 1994

The Dominus Estate began in 1982 as a partnership between Christian Moueix of Château Pétrus and Robin Lail and Marcia Smith, the daughters of John Daniels, Jr., and it was called the John Daniel Society. The estate is 124-acre vineyard located west of Yountville. In 1995, Christian Moueix became the sole owner. The first twelve vintages of the wine were made by Chris Phelps under the guidance of Pétrus winemaker, Jean-Claude Berrouet. David Ramey made the wine in 1996 and 1997. Then, Boris Champy, now of Maison Louis Latour took over the winemaking from 1998 through 2007.

In 2006, wet and cold weather over the winter and spring delayed bud-break. It was exceptionally hot by the middle of the summer which sped up the growth cycle. August brought good weather for the growth of the grapes with warm days and cool nights. Then, mild temperatures in September and October enabled balanced ripening. Harvest began on 2 October. The 2006 is a blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot. There was no Merlot in this vintage, and it was aged in 40% new French oak barrels.

The 1994 blend includes 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, 12% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot. It was also aged in 40% new French oak barrels. This vintage came directly after the 1992 as there was no wine made in 1993. The 1994 growing season was the longest on record since 1982, and it was dry with moderate temperatures promoting a favourable growing season, the grapes were able to reach full maturity. Harvest began on 19 September. This pair was included to see if we would be able to identify them as California or whether most would identify them as Bordeaux. We felt it would be a good comparison with the Sociando.

 

Maison M. Chapoutier - Ermitage 'Le Pavillon', 2007 & 1997

Chapoutier has been producing wines in the Rhône for the last two hundred years. This single vineyard, ‘Le Pavillon’, is approximately 4 hectares planted in granite subsoil with rocks, stones and clay. In 1990, Michel Chapoutier, took the reins from his father, and he’s very much propelled this winery forward. Two of the primary changes Michel made was converting the farming practices of the vineyards to follow biodynamic principles and total destemming of the grapes.

Le Pavillon comes from the Bessards section of the Hermitage hill and is located in the middle of the slope. The wine is made from 100% Syrah, and the vines are 90-100 years old. Grapes for this wine are totally destemmed and fermented in concrete tanks. The wine is aged in French oak casks for 18-20 months with 30% of the oak being new. This pairs offers us an opportunity to examine the same wine exactly ten years apart in age.

The 2007 vintage in the Northern Rhône was quite similar to Burgundy. It produced wines that are fresh and forward with the fruit character showing through and in some cases silky tannins. The 1997 vintage saw unsettling weather conditions with flowering early followed by cool conditions in June and July but then a hot August. Those who waited until October to pick made fine wines; Chapoutier’s wines from Hermitage were strong examples from the 1997 vintage.

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View our past Vintage Pairs wine selection

Vintage Wine Bottle size Score
2014 Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné - Hermitage Blanc 'Chevalier de Sterimberg' 750ml WA93
2010 Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné - Hermitage Blanc 'Chevalier de Sterimberg' 750ml WA94
2014 Lucien Le Moine - Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 750ml BH92-94
2005 Lucien Le Moine - Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 750ml BH93-95
2001 Château Sociando-Mallet 750ml WA93
1990 Château Sociando-Mallet 750ml WA92
2006 Dominus 750ml WA96
1994 Dominus 750ml WA97
2007 Maison M. Chapoutier - Ermitage 'Le Pavillon' 750ml --
1997 Maison M. Chapoutier - Ermitage 'Le Pavillon' 750ml WA96-98

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