One of the candidates for France's wine of the vintage is unquestionably Chapoutier's 1996 Hermitage l'Ermite. In October, 1997 I reported that this was a virtually perfect wine made from a small parcel of vines, believed to be over 100 years old, located close to the tiny white chapel owned by the Jaboulets on the highest part of the Hermitage Hill. Yields were a minuscule 9 hectoliters per hectare. Now that this wine is in bottle, it is unbelievable! Unfortunately, only 30 cases were exported to the United States. The wine boasts a saturated black/purple color, as well as a phenomenal nose of rose petals, violets, blackberries, cassis, and pain grille. In the mouth, it is phenomenally rich, with a viscous texture, and a multidimensional, layered finish that lasts for over a minute. Its purity, perfect equilibrium, and unbelievable volume and richness are the stuff of legends. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2050
As granite as granite gets, with an almost liquid rock character that’s almost impossible to find outside of Hermitage, the sensational 1996 Ermitage l'Ermite offers a complex array of ripe dark fruits, olive, game and graphite in a full-bodied, fresh, incredibly delineated and focused style. Massively concentrated, structured, and rich on the palate, yet as seamless as they come, enjoy this utterly heavenly wine over the coming two to three decades. Once the tasting was over and the drinking began, this was the first glass drained, and I couldn’t imagine a wine being better.