Thursday, March 5, 2009

Paul Jaboulet Crozes Hermitage, 1978

This was one of the first wines I bought in quantity for cellaring. With a few bottles left, I like to bring one up during March--my birthday month--just to see what aging is all about. There are many wines I wouldn't dare use for this purpose, but I know that Jaboulet's Crozes, from one of the best Rhone vintages of the century, is up to the task.

It's a medium light, brickish color; it's lightened a bit even from last year. The bouquet is well developed--red meat, olives, animal fur and grilled tomatoes. At this stage, it's more like a Cote Rotie than a Hermitage. Flavors are well defined with good acid structure to maintain the fruit presence. Savory mid-palate with a sweet after taste. In its youth, this wine was a summer pudding of fresh red and black berries. Through the years these aromas and flavors have evolved, mellowed and become more complex. It's neither better nor worse than it was...but different.

This is Jaboulet's regular Crozes Hermitage, not the more highly reputed Domaine Thalabert, which was one of my favorite wines through the 1980s. Because of the quality of the 1978 vintage, the Thalabert for that year sold out early, so I bought two cases of the regular Crozes for $56/case--a good price even in the early 1980s. Today, Jaboulet's regular Crozes is known as Les Jalets, and I would not expect it (nor the Thalabert) to age as gracefully as this wine has.


  1. $56 a case? Was it on sale back then? That is a pretty extraordinary price, even accounting for inflation!

    What is your opinion of the 2007 Chateauneufs, Fred? Is the hype justified? I'm thinking of buying a few for cellaring.

  2. Yes, the bottle price was $5.69 and Village Corner at that time gave 15% discount for full cases--12 bottles for the price of 10. So, it was actually $56.90. The Thalabert would have been a dollar or two more. But in 1982, when the dollar was strong against the French franc, I got the Hermitage la Chappelle for only about $10 a bottle. Rhone wines just didn't get much respect at that time.

    As for the 2007 Chateauneufs, I haven't tried any, but the lower level wines I've tried from 2007 convince me that it's going to be at least a very good vintage. With prices what they are and my age what it is, I probably won't be a buyer. But I'm sure there will be many very good choices. Let me know if you have any questions.

  3. Err...exactly how long is one supposed to cellar these things?!

    We gotta get more reds into ya, Fred. Resveratrol, you know.

  4. Well, if the vintage is really good, I probably wouldn't touch them until 2019--when I will turn 80. I plan to remain healthy and able to drink wine by that time, but I don't have much control over the following two decades. Considering what I have in my cellar, I would probably wait even longer on the best ones. So the price/benefit ratio is not very good for me.

    If I were just a few years younger, I would probably put away at least a mixed case of the 2007s, but I would choose very carefully considering the economy and possible pricing changes. There have been certain periods (1973-74, 1982-83) when even the very finest wines became dirt cheap. (I bought a magnum of Lafitte in 1973 for under $10).

    Because of my taste biases, I would ignore the high-priced luxury cuvees and choose wines from the more traditional estates that I know I like: Bois du Boursan, Pegau (depending on price), Vieux Donjon, Clos Mont Olivet, Lucien Barrot, Janasse. I'm not sure it's worth chasing a wine if the price is high because there are many good estates that don't always get the notice they should. I'd also look for special deals on futures purchases. I got a very good futures deal on the 1998 Vieux Donjon ($240/case). By the time, it arrived, the wine had been rated top wine of the year by both Parker and the Wine Spectator and selling for more than $100 a bottle. In this economy, of course, that kind of scenario could be reversed.

    I think Parker's ratings are pretty reliable (although, again, I don't get excited by the high scores on luxury cuvees). Tanzer's scores are usually about the same. I have no trust in the Wine Spectator. John Livingstone Learmouth, who has written several excellent books on the Rhone, has a web site, For 40 British pounds a year, you can get access to his tasting notes, which I would trust as much as anyone's.

    If I go to any tastings of the 2007s, I will certainly post notes. And I will be buying as much as I can afford of the lesser appellations such as Cairanne, Vacqueyras, Gigondas, CDR and CDR Villages. Great wines usually come from great vintages, but one of the best ways of enjoying a great vintage is to drink as many of the lesser wines as you can when they are young and middle aged.