The family name Chave, of the winemaking region of L’Hermitage in the northern Rhone River Valley of France, is revered all over the world. The Chaves have been making wine since 1491 and, remarkably, the winery has remained in the hands of the family to this day. The Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Syrah (around $250 per bottle) enjoys cult status among those that are really into wine and have the money, or those in the wine industry high-up enough to enjoy a taste of this legendary and exclusive red wine. The Chave enterprise, however, is the furthest thing from a commercial behemoth—they are happy to farm and produce small amounts of wine from some of the finest vineyards in the L’Hermitage, some owned by the family and some from which they source to create their blends every year.
The J.L. (that would be Jean-Louis) Chave Selection “Offerus”comes largely from the Syrah fruit of younger vines that Jean-Louis replanted himself in the Saint-Joseph area of L’Hermitage; the rest of the blend is purchased fruit from vineyards in the region. The 2013 bottling, at one-eighth the price of the family’s flagship Syrah, offers a look into the window of the soul of Chave winemaking. It’s a killer wine, so distinctive and singular in nature, with a somewhat gritty, scorched-earth character. The wine is like a great character actor who manages to become an iconic lead actor—the Philip Seymour Hoffman, the Robert Duvall, the Javier Bardem. While steeped in rich, succulent flavors of red fruit, raspberry liqueur and black currant—there’s also fascinating additional details of olives, smoked brined meat and young chopped wood. It’s the precise definition of character that makes the experience of the wine so memorable. Who can forget Mr. Hoffman as Truman Capote? Who can forget Mr. Duvall in The Godfather? Or Mr. Bardem in No Country for Old Men? You won’t soon forget the Chave Offerus. –J.M.