J.L. Chave Hermitage 1.5L
Domaine Francois et Antoine Jobard Meursault Blagny
Welcome to our newest series, The Somm Set. Each month we’ll be sitting down with a guest sommelier and uncovering their guilty pleasures, cellar staples, and everything in between! Follow as they hand-select their favorites from our warehouse, giving you the inside scoop on cellar must-haves!
This month on The Somm Set, we’re excited to feature Doug Frost, Master Sommelier & Master of Wine. Join us as we explore everything from his love of Spanish wines and his current endevours in the Walla Walla Valley.
This week from Doug Frost:
When I am given a wine list, I dig in deep for as long as it takes me to really read the thing. My wife gets a bit angry, understandably. But great lists are filled with wines you know and some you don't know and, if it's a good list, it also has wines you know but had forgotten about. I'm not saying that about most of the wines below, yet I'll freely admit that I haven't bought any Francois Jobard in years. That's on me. The wines are as great as ever – and during the 1990s, I was obsessed with them. They were so distinctive that at least once I spotted it blind in a tasting – this tastes like Jobard to me, I called out, and for once in my life (and pretty much 'once' is true), I was right.
Meursault is expected to have some nuttiness to it, like hazelnut with perhaps a hint of butter under the spice and mineral and richness. Jobard somehow has something that almost seems like a whisper of peppermint, and it conjoins these other flavors to bring true complexity to the experience. How does he do it? I have no idea; perhaps it's his barrels, his cellar, who knows?
Francois has ceded responsibility to his son Antoine, and the wines have gained even a bit more nerve. I haven't met Antoine, but I will never ever forget meeting his father, though it was, in its way, an underwhelming experience. I was pumped, as excited as a kid on Christmas to meet him. When we walked into the darkened cellar, it was hard to get him to step into the dim lights hanging close above our heads. He was taciturn, to put it mildly. Brief explanations and long silences. I was worried but quickly found my mind caught up in the wines. At that moment, I thought I understood something about wine: it was as if he was unwilling or even unable to talk and had chosen to let the wines speak for him. And speak they did, in strong, deep, sonorous tones, embodying the depth that some Chardonnays can reach.
Antoine, I hope, is a bit more social. But Francois showed me how wine is communicative, as much as any other art form. So too did I think once upon a time (simpler and less expensive days they were) that I could call out Domaine Leflaive at a tasting, so dramatic and showy were the wines. Perhaps I could do so today, but I find them to offer a bit less shouting these days, and so the elegant edge they've taken on doesn't bother me a bit. The Grand Cru wines are rather out of my range, meanwhile, so I give myself solace with Leflaive's Maconnais wines, so often top of their ranks in any AOP. Don't overlook Leflaive's Macons and the Pouilly Fuisses.
Chateau de Beaucastel's ubiquity in the American marketplace is perhaps seen as a weakness – some people will act as though it must not be great since it's relatively easy to find, but I don't know why but some people are like that. For me, I'm delighted that I can still queue up for their top wines. Like most Grenache-based wines, they age comfortably for twenty to thirty years, but unlike most others, they achieve complexity throughout that lifetime. Hommage a Jacques Perrin, the pinnacle of their wines, doesn't seem to have an end date, not as far as I have tasted.
And their whites are wonderful and age-worthy, too, particularly the elusive and shocking Roussanne Vieille Vignes. I have happily aged them for twenty years and, while I suppose I'm used to older white wines, I really think you should try some of the older versions on offer and see how crazily they embody what seem to be oxidized flavors alongside strong acidity, floral aromas, and extravagant texture.
If you want to drink the world's greatest Syrah, you have your shot. Jean-Louis Chave is at least my vote for that trophy. I can't say enough as to how well these wines age and grow and change and prove that people like me who say that twenty years is enough for any Syrah are referring to others than Chave. I have forty-year-old Chave in the basement, and I'm in no hurry, nor should you be if you are lucky enough to swoop up one of these.
Just as critical are his white wines, Hermitage Blanc is considerably odder and harder to predict than the Rouge. They can be rather jangly in their youth (younger than ten years) but are no less capable of long aging in the cellar. Again, there are no vintages on offer that I would be afraid to purchase and share with the right friends. But add food; they are famously nervy.
And the last name I want to recommend to you also makes both reds and whites, this time in Pessac-Leognan. Just as I am describing my obsession to you from other disparate places in France, I am unabashedly nuts for Domaine de Chevalier, whether the blanc or the Rouge. Olivier Bernard and family have made, year in and year out, regardless of the vintage, some of Bordeaux's most exciting wines. The whites are so poised and beautiful and capable of decades of cellaring; the reds embody elegance.
In fact, all this typing has made me thirsty, and I'm going to open one of the wines mentioned above. Which one? Dunno. Let's see which one crawls into my hands.
Master of Wine & Master Sommelier