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WINE

The Great
Pretender
Many wine lovers consider the 1961
Paul Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle
Rouge to be one of the great wines;
unfortunately it is very scarce. So is there
an equivalent in the offing?

In conversation at a recent wine dinner, the


subject turned to the staggering price that a
case of 1961 Paul Jaboulet La Chapelle fetched
at Christie’s Fine and Rare Wine Auction
in London, September 2007, a staggering
GBP123,750 (HK$945187.00) inclusive of
taxes and premiums, a European record for
a single case of wine. The conversation then
turned to the vintages of La Chapelle that
might potentially be the equal of the enduring
1961. According to the vintage charts, the 1978
and 1990 are the obvious candidates.
Dr N K Yong, arguably one of the most
erudite and seasoned fine wine palates in Asia
offered the opinion, based on countless visits
to Jaboulet and in-depth conversations with
the late Gerard Jaboulet, “that while the 1978
was a most impressive wine, the 1990 is a
stronger contender to match the 1961”. Wine
critic and Rhone Valley enthusiast Robert
Parker Jr scored both the 1978 and 1990
a perfect 100 and declared the 1990: “The
modern day equivalent of the 1961, it deserves
all the attention it has garnered.”
Swiss financier Jean-Jacques Frey acquired
Paul Jaboulet Aine in 2006 and, judging by the
results following Frey’s purchase of Chateau
La Lagune, the expectation is for exponential
changes in the vineyard and winery.
I was a guest of the Frey family, while
participating in the 2007 en primeur tastings,
and they proved consummate hosts during my
stay at the impeccably renovated Chateau La
Lagune. At dinner in the congenial ambiance
of Chateau’s converted cellar open-plan kitchen
one evening, in the company of a number of
revered Master of Wines and accomplished
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1990 is a strong contender to the equivalent of the 1961. Will it achieve the
match the 1961 same stratospheric price of the 1961? This will
depend largely upon the rarity factor, and one
has to consider most of the 1961 has been
consumed and is indeed a very rare beast,
wine writers from around the world, I was whereas there is still ample 1990 available on
treated to a 1991 Paul Jaboulet La Chapelle the secondary market. Time will tell.
served blind, in this case poured from a Following our indulgent lunch I spent the
decanter, the consensus was a dignified Grand afternoon with Brunet walking through the
Cru Classe Bordeaux with considerable bottle Hermitage vineyards, making our way around
age, perhaps 1985 or 1986. the precarious terraces and climbing up to
The revelation for me was how an off- the La Chapelle vineyard and tiny Chapel of
vintage or cooler year of an Hermitage from a Saint-Christophe, with its breathtaking views
producer considered to be underachieving at overlooking the terraced vineyards along the
the time, can be deemed by discerning palates Rhône. Even today, with the tranquility and
as comparable to a higher echelon Bordeaux. timeless arid terrain, one can easily relate to the
Clearly we should consider what is in the bottle, serenity and isolation sought by Gaspard de
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rather than be prejudiced by market sentiment Sterimberg, the valiant and injured knight who
or the vagaries of the wine press. This bottle and returned from the Albigensian crusade in 1234,
an equally splendid second bottle liberated from seeking refuge in these hills, and building the
the cellar were empowering, necessitating a tiny Chapel where he saw out his remaining
reassessment of one’s impression of Hermitage. days as a hermit, hence the origin of the
My notes on the wine at the time of tasting: Hermitage appellation.
extraordinary perfume of sweaty saddle and They have been making wine in these
worn leather, a melange of Asian spices, Indian parts since 600BC, the Rhône Valley seen as
cardamom seed, mixed spice box, anise, building the spiritual home of Syrah; the first plantings
to an intense spiciness with liquorice notes; thought to have been around the 10th Century.
alluring cedar forest, morels and dried woods, The Jaboulet family became the sole owners
ducks’ guts and pan-fried liver smells, the iron- of the La Chapelle vineyard in 1919, however
flint-gunpowder fingerprint of the terroir giving one cannot help but feel even more enthusiastic
way to a tangible dried mushroom character and about the extensive Jaboulet range now that it
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the toffee sweetness of a wine at its meridian. 2 is under the new ownership of the Frey’s, and
A subtly sweet, caramel-led palate, tawny my future expectations of this venerable Rhone
port flavours, light and ethereal, yet incredibly Valley house are exceedingly high.
powerful and voluminous in the flavour and
explosion of spices, which is dominated by
star anise and clove. Becomes very gamey and was one of the world’s leading sommeliers in the restaurant and expertly decanted and served steroids. Incredibly unctuous and chewy palate,
savoury, Chinese roast duck juices, when the his previous career and there is no facet of wine, by our dutiful sommelier. although strikingly fresh and lively, intense Where to Find it
duck is just cut open and the cooking juices food, and the workings of restaurants and every This is without doubt one of the most spicy black pepper warmth, then a saturation
and garlic and clove aromas fill the senses; so minutiae of the Rhone Valley, or any wine region profound wines I have ever tasted and an of black cherry and blood plum, with layers Paul Jaboulet is distributed in Hong Kong by Links
much like a great Burgundy, with its sweetness for that matter, that this dynamic, passionate and experience that will stay in my memory forever. of rich sweet berry fruit, dark chocolate and Concept Company, situated in Sheung Wan, Tel:

Photsos: Curtis Marsh, Paul Jaboulet aine


oscillating with tangy tartness and piercingly amiable individual is not familiar with. Old leather and antique timbers, dark soy liquorice, a big black tarry, meaty, leathery 2802 2818, or email patricio@linksconcept.com.hk
sour raspberry, redcurrant berry-fruit. Although After a most enlightening tasting, and oriental spices, concentrated black cherry, mouthful of wine; a wave of tannins cutting They stock several back vintages but among
drinking absolutely perfectly, it still has fine particularly the white wines, which I will have dried figs and prunes with a Christmas cake through the unctuousness bringing with it the the more current are the outstanding 2003
1-2 Working on the
tannins and a harmonious acidity that suggests it to report on in a future article, I was whisked richness, oscillating to tangy dried tomato accentuated minerality of iron, wet granite and (HK$1325 per bottle) and praiseworthy 2004
mosaic terraced slopes
will hold for some time yet, an incredible wine, off to lunch by Brunet and joined by Nicholas of Hermitage in the and savoury notes of old balsamic and fireside gunflint, with an earthy farewell of black truffle, (HK$1150 per bottle), both exceptionally well
demonstrative of the magnificence of Hermitage. Jaboulet (nephew of the late and legendary Northern Rhone Valley charcoals. Breathes out becoming incredibly cedar-forest floor and pine mushroom. A tour priced, a reflection of the zero tax on wine in
The following morning I flew down to the Gerald Jaboulet) at the Les Cedres restaurant, 3-4 A 2003 Paul Jaboulet intense and port-like, in a good way, with sweet de force, the wine continually growing and Hong Kong.
Rhone Valley emerging from Lyon airport into a two Michelin establishment serving exquisite Hermitage La Chapelle molasses, dried liquorice and tar, the sweetness evolving over the hour and showing no signs of Paul Jaboulet is distributed in mainland
a bracing six degrees Celsius, although already regionally focused haute-cuisine with the most Rouge and a classic of perfume Burgundy-like, I am thinking La stopping, I can only assume it will continue to China by Summergate International, based in
1990, liberated from
a wonderfully sunny day. I was scheduled for a impeccable and highly-professional service I Tache, amongst ducks’ guts, pan fried liver and age for many decades. Shanghai, Tel: +86 (21) 6329 4433 email: ian.
the cellars at La Cedre
Text: Curtis Marsh

comprehensive tasting at the Jaboulet cellars with have ever encountered. However, and much to Restaurant smokey bacon fat. Which wine is better is really a question ford@summergate.com
export manager Christophe Brunet, who had my elation, the dining experience was somewhat 5 Paul Jaboulet maturation
Harmonising these hedonistic sensations of personal taste, but clearly the profound For more information on Paul Jaboulet, visit
previously been with Miguel Torres and knows overwhelmed by the bottle of 1990 La Chapelle cellars, dug into the is the wonderful freshness of pine forest, impact of the 1990, a vintage that it is still www.jaboulet.com
the Asia market intimately. Moreover, Brunet that arrived at the table, pristinely cellared by limestone caves pine needles and menthol, like a Barolo on evolving, convinced me that it will become

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