2020 J.L. Chave Sélection, Crozes- Hermitage Blanc “Sybèle” Northern Rhone, France.
When I think of Jean-Louis Chave, one of the most famous winemakers in the world and a Rhone legend, I usually think of his Syrah wines, but I must say this 2020 Sybèle Crozes Blanc is a fabulous and impressive bottle of wine, it bursts from the glass with enough poise to make you think it is much more expensive wine! This 2020 Crozes-Hermitage Blanc is part of the J.L. Chave Sélection label, which Jean-Louis founded in the mid 1990s focusing first on Saint-Joseph and then Croze-Hermitage, and is made from 60% Marsanne and 40% Roussanne, sourced from traditionally sustainable vineyard sites set mostly on loose, stony, loess based soils. This vintage is classically ripe, golden in the glass and luxurious on the full bodied palate showing off expressive fleshy apricot, golden apple and lemony fruit along with rich honeycomb, mineral tones, almond paste, brown better and even a touch of bacon, all flowing seamless with subtle acidity and leesy notes. The textural pleasure certainly reminds me of Chave’s top Hermitage Blanc, especially with the good dose of Roussanne here and this stuff is fantastic with hearty cuisine, its slightly oily nature going well also with lobster and or swordfish dishes.
The Chave family has roots here in the Northern Rhone and have been involved with winegrowing, especially around the historic Hermitage hill since 1481, though their fame took off under Jean-Louis Chave’s dad Gerard, with Jean-Louis taking over himself in 1993 and building the Chave estate label into one of the most desirable in the wine collectors world. I’ve been lucky to have had the top cuvées of Chave, the Hermitage Rouge, Hermitage Blanc and the Saint-Joseph(s) on many occasions, enjoying many vintage bottlings, like 1985, which was drinking like a perfectly aged Burgundy, as well as current release stuff, and even since I got into the wine business I have sampled and bought these J.L. Chave Sélections, in particular the Offerus (Syrah), which is always a killer value. The Sybèle Crozes Blanc is fermented in varietal separated small lots with native yeasts in large French oaks and then blended and aged in well used Barriques, to enhance depth, richness and terroir influence. Throughout his range, Jean-Louis Chave’s wines deliver outstanding quality and showcase his passion to produce wines with a sense of place, these wines full of personality, precision and purity, with this latest release Sybèle, a sleeper in the collection, really showing well now, its a wine that shows what these grapes, Marsanne and Roussanne can do. There’s also a Saint-Joseph Blanc by Chave called “Circa” which is the verse blend, with 60% Roussanne and 40% Marsanne, which I also highly recommend too.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive