Jean-Louis Chave’s name appears on the bottle, but it’s actually been there since well before he was born. As the 16th generation tending to storied vineyards in Hermitage, Saint-Joseph, and Crozes Hermitage in France’s Northern Rhone Valley, he is one of the world’s most influential stewards of Syrah (Marsanne and Roussanne, for his whites).
It Didn’t Happen Overnight
There’s a long line of vignerons tied to the Chave name, dating back to 1481 when the family was granted land in what’s now Saint-Joseph from local knights — eventually the Chaves purchased land on the Hill of Hermitage as well, representing some of the best terroir along the Rhone River.
In the early 1990s, Jean-Louis took over the family domaine and property from his father Gerard (one of the few male Chaves named something other than Jean, Louis, or Jean-Louis). The land included abandoned vineyards arranged on the Bachasson hillside in the Saint-Joseph appellation. In an interview with Levi Dalton, Jean-Louis describes the discovery of crumbling walls and neglected sheds containing viticulture tools during his childhood, fueling a lasting question about the people that tended the land generations before him.
Fascinated by the past, he held onto the dream of replenishing life in these vineyards, replanting vines and rebuilding the terracing walls in addition to husbanding vines aged 100 years or more. It’s a terroir of parcels and plots reflecting the tones of diversity within a relatively small growing area. The Chave sense of atmosphere comes from knowing which bits and pieces to blend together to ultimately create a profile that captures each vintage of the hillside farm.
No one really knows who originally planted these vineyards, though it’s understood that farming the hillside vineyards is far from easy. Speculation says the ever-building Romans could have been the first to plant these plots, but there isn’t proof of that. It is known that the space was always a bastion for Syrah, verified by the discovery of wild grapevines that held stead in the forest surrounding the vineyard, post-Phylloxera survivors that stamped validation on the species identity.
The King of the Rhone
The domaine has earned a reputation for being the “King of the Rhone” and Jean-Louis’s exceptional dedication and hard work has bolstered that sentiment within a new age of wine lovers.
The range includes JL Chave flagship collection as well as the JL Chave Selection negociant label, which comes at an accessible price but lacks none of the dedication and quality attached to the Chave way.
Right down the line, these wines are considered to be world-class: well-defined, balanced, and complex. There’s hardly a better choice for a collectible wine — one that has the chops to pass from generation to generation — than a bottle of Chave Hermitage.