The family domaine J L Chave is one of the northern Rhône's most famous and popular producers – run impeccably for years by Gérard Chave, who has now handed over to his California-trained son Jean-Louis Chave. Domaine Yann Chave is different but growing steadily in reputation. I would suggest that now is the moment to take advantage of Dom Yann Chave 2006 Crozes-Hermitage Rouge and the growing reputation of this other, hugely gifted Chave, described by John Livingstone-Learmonth in his excellent The Wines of the Northern Rhône as "one of the best young men to appear in the northern Rhône in the past dozen years". He was an economist with a bank in Paris until deciding in 1996 that he'd rather make wine out of the grapes his father was sending to the Tain co-op. You might also like to take a look at the wine's made in Yann's old cellar by his sister Natascha Chave, offered for the first time this year by Genesis in London.
There is also the fact that 2006 seems to have been an especially good vintage for the Crozes-Hermitage appellation. You can find more of my strong recommendations in our Northern Rhône 2006 tasting notes, where you will see that Julia was even more enthusiastic about the special bottling Dom Yann Chave, Le Rouvre 2006 Crozes-Hermitage Rouge.
The hill of Hermitage, a granite hillock just east of the river Rhône south of Lyon and the main autoroute to the south of France, is where so many of France's longest-lived reds come from, and is the source of the Syrah vine, ancestor of Australia's Shiraz. Crozes-Hermitage is a much larger appellation on lower, flatter ground on the lower flanks of the hill of Hermitage but there seem to be more and more skilled winemakers turning the Syrah grown there into really sophisticated wine.
Yann Chave is one of them. This wine is made from Syrah grown on sandy, pebbly soil using quasi-organic methods with just a fifth of wine aged in large oak. I liked the funy nose of this wine with its tarry, classic north Rhône Syrah aroma. This is really artisanal wine with masses of integrity and bags of personality. The fruit, crucially, is ripe but not overripe. I actually wrote that the tannins have a sandy texture before reading about the make-up of the soil, so this is presumably pure coincidence, but the most important thing is that the wine is particularly appetising. I reckon this wine will continue to improve for two or three years and will still taste good in 2012 – a good one for the cellar, or for drinking with meaty main courses (something with a bit of chew to it) now.
In the UK, you can find it at Waitrose Wine Direct or the six biggest stores at £12.99. (It used to be imported by Stone Vine & Sun but presumably moved when one of SVS's buyers moved to Waitrose.) It is also stocked in Oxford, Cambridge and by Cooden Cellars for not much more. In the US it is offered rather expensively by the charmingly named Half Wit Wines of San Francisco and by many other retailers. Wine-Searcher lists stockists of the regular or Rouvre bottling not only in France but also in Denmark, Switzerland, Italy, Norway, Ireland and New Zealand.