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Caroline Frey brings Hermitage La Chapelle to La Place de Bordeaux

Caroline Frey has announced today (31 August) the bringing to La Place de Bordeaux of her two iconic Hermitage wines, La Chapelle and Le Chevalier de Sterimberg.

They are the first wines from Hermitage to be offered through La Place, and are already the talk of the campaign. La Chapelle is part of a heritage of the world’s finest wines owned by the Frey family, alongside the Haut-Médoc third growth, Château La Lagune, Domaines Paul Jaboulet Aîné and Château Corton C.

Extending over 26-hectares of the beautiful terroirs of Hermitage in the northern Rhône, La Chapelle itself has, since its very first vintage, been made from an exceptional blend of Syrah grapes drawn from the famous Le Méal and Les Bessards parcels of land.

From today onwards, Domaine La Chapelle will entrust La Chapelle and Le Chevalier de Sterimberg to a select circle of négociants of La Place de Bordeaux. The market release features the 2021 vintages of La Chapelle and Chevalier de Sterimberg, alongside a rare and more limited re-release of the 2006, 2011, and 2013 vintages of La Chapelle.

I was lucky enough to taste each of these wines with Caroline Frey just before their release on La Place, having also tasted the three older vintages as part of a more comprehensive profile of La Chapelle in October 2022. The latest set of tasting notes are below.

As Domaine de la Chapelle’s President and winemaker, Caroline Frey, explained: “It is with great pride that La Chapelle joins La Place de Bordeaux alongside the world’s greatest wines. My attachment to this vineyard is sentimental. Every person who climbs the hill to La Chapelle, following in the footsteps of the Chevalier de Sterimberg who settled there in the 13th century, cultivated the vines, and gave his name to the Hermitage appellation, feels the emotion and energy of this legendary place.

“For nearly 20 years, we have been working to sustain a unique heritage with humility and passion, revealing the genius of this timeless place. I have full confidence in La Place de Bordeaux to accompany us in this endeavour”.

The press release also reveals that La Chapelle and Le Chevalier de Sterimberg will now be brought together to become Domaine de La Chapelle. From now on they will managed independently of the rest of the viticultural heritage of Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné.

A statement said: “The rigorous and diligent work set in place since Caroline Frey’s arrival in 2005 justifies the creation of a distinct entity. The Domaine de La Chapelle deserves a setting worthy of its two legendary wines. The construction of a state-of-the-art winery is already underway. Renowned Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, known for projects like the Audemars Piguet Manufacture and Noma restaurant, has been commissioned with this ambitious project”.

Delphine Prost, Caroline Frey’s sister, who has been centrally involved in the project elaborated: “More than his reputation, Bjarke impressed us with his sensitivity, his talent for membracing history, respecting a place, and for his capacity to bring the legend of La Chapelle to life in a contemporary and sustainable manner. This marks a new chapter in the long history of La Chapelle, a domaine that tames time through vintages of unwavering freshness”.

Tasting notes

Hermitage La Chapelle 2021 (Hermitage; 100% Syrah; 13.5% alcohol; aged for 12 months in oak barrels, of which 15 per cent were new, and in natural concrete ‘eggs’; certified organic). Pure, bright, fresh and very true to its identity, this is also floral, sapid, dynamic and energetic. But there’s more mid-palate density and concentration here. Subtle white floral hints: wisteria and jasmine. Crunchy bright berries popping in the mouth. A touch of wood-smoke and a subtle hint of espresso. Compact and impressively imposing but without any demonstrative sense of weight. Fine-grained tannins accentuate the sensation of layering, giving this a lovely feel, shape and dynamic evolution over the palate. So soft but so much intensity too. Sapid and with up-currents of freshness. Long and supremely elegant. This continues the succession of recent greatness from La Chapelle. 97.

Hermitage Le Chevalier de Sterimberg 2021 (Hermitage; 100% Marsanne; pH 3.30; 14% alcohol; aged for 6 months in a combination of natural concrete ‘eggs’ and demi-muids; certified organic). Crystalline, pure, nutty, fresh and with plenty of crushed stone mineral character. A slight white florality – lily of the valley perhaps. Hyper-vertical with loads of lift, the freshness reinforced by the salinity. Sapid. Racy. Crisp. Rich but carried by the impressive vein of acidity. 96.

Hermitage La Chapelle 2013 (Hermitage; 100% Syrah; pH 3.60; 13.5% alcohol; aged for 12 months in oak barrels, of which 15 per cent were new, and in natural concrete ‘eggs’). Ferrous and slightly funky, this is the most immediately expressive aromatically of the trio of older vintages in this year’s re-release. This is earthy and cedary with the dark stone fruit – baked plums and cherries – playing a little more of a background role. Dried rose petals, leather too, white truffle and trompette de la mort with more aeration. One senses the oak a little more than with the 2011 and this is quite spicy, though never sweet. Sinuous and more open-textured, translucent and radiant in the mid-palate but without the depth, density and concentration of the greatest of more recent vintages here. But it is still very gorgeous and the quality of the tannin management is extraordinary. Sapid and fresh on the finish, and actually less dry than when I first encountered it. I like this more now that I re-taste it a year on. Though it’s quite ethereal and airy, I’m struck more by the compactness of the fruit in the mid-palate and readjust (upwards) my prior rating. 95.

Hermitage La Chapelle 2011 (Hermitage; 100% Syrah; pH 3.68; 14% alcohol; just 15% new oak). Amongst the most aromatically expressive of vintages of La Chapelle. Very fresh and yet sunny in personality and very floral again, but with slightly darker shaded flowers – violets, lilacs, a hint of lavender too and that wild herbal character to be found in the 2007 too. Mimosa and even a little hint of orange blossom. In a longer flight, this was the most floral of the vintages from 2005. But there’s a lovely classical cedar component too and a more vivid and vibrant pure raspberry and mulberry fruit. It is a little broader-shouldered too but luminous and clear at the core, like the 2009. A rolling, rippling, sinuous mid-palate – less linear than the 2010 – and with a wondrous fantail finish. The tannins are chewy and, on the finish especially, not quite as fine-grained as the two preceding vintages. Charming and authentic in its slight hint of austerity, but still very attractive and a lovely expression of the vintage. 95.

Hermitage La Chapelle 2006 (Hermitage; 100% Syrah; pH 3.57; 14% alcohol; just 25% new oak from this vintage on). Tasted as part of a vertical at the property with Caroline Frey in October 2022 and again in late August 2023. The very first vintage entirely produced by Caroline Frey (the 2005 was just assembled by her). Lovely, soft and engaging if a little old school and slightly funky in a millennial La Chapelle kind of a way. Ripe, round and very much ready. There’s a touch of violet; and with air, pencil shavings, a balsamic note, a little girolle and white truffle; there’s also just a slight hint of sous bois and a damp cellar floor about this too – but it actually adds to the character. Very seductive. Gamey notes, classic truffle and leather – earthy, with a hint of garrigue and wild thyme, slightly ferrous and a little feral. There’s less obvious minerality and this is softer than the slightly more focused and age-worthy later vintages. Overall, this has a pleasing grip and forward march across the palate, even if the tannins are a little rough around the edges, especially towards the finish. 92.

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