Tasted from bottle, the 2011 Hermitage sports a ruby/purple color to go with an awesome bouquet of sweet cassis, dried flowers, spice-box, ground pepper and crushed stone. One of the more serious, focused and structured 2011s, it has fabulous concentration, sweet tannin and a seamless texture. Give it 5-6 years and enjoy bottles over the following 2 decades or more.
The 2011 Hermitage (also still in barrel), in comparison, is more focused and straight, with a slightly more serious feel to its tannin profile and overall structure. All of the samples (again, tasted in individual components) were beautifully perfumed, with the Les Bessards (which will make up the bulk of the blend) showing surprising density and concentration in a vintage that generally produced more up-front and supple wines. A serious 2011 that will certainly be one of the stars of the vintage, it should be reasonably approachable on release and have an easy two decades of longevity.
One of the highlight visits during my time spent working in the Northern Rhone, Jean-Louis Chave (who is often called "The Pope of Hermitage" by others) makes some of the most profound wines in the world today. As he says, "We don't make Chave, we make Hermitage," and there are few things more educational, when trying to understand this storied appellation, than to taste through each of Jean-Louis's different Hermitage plots from barrel. The striking minerality and austere cut of the l'Ermite parcel is in stark contrast to the voluptuousness and texture that's found in the Le Meal (which is just down the slope); and both are completely different from the silky, polished and perfumed Peleat lieu-dit. Despite the notoriety here, Jean-Louis remains one of the most humble and straight talking winemakers out there, and his wines deserve a place in any wine lover's cellar.