2009 Tardieu-Laurent Hermitage Blanc
Expert Rating
WS 94 points
(Read the full review below)
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Michel Tradieu Rolling Back the Olfactory Clock

In the Fall of 1985, while dining at Georges Perrier's Le Bec-Fin -- then just named the #1 restaurant in America -- we got our first taste of white Hermitage. Like most that night on Walnut Street in Philadelphia, our first course was foie gras, seared to perfection by the inimitable Perrier.

The sommelier at Le Bec-Fin was Gregory Moore, a brilliant, humbly erudite wine steward. Moore's knowledge of French wine was encyclopedic, but like most of his counterparts in the city, Greg had a penchant for underselling his audience. Each time we were treated to dinner at Le Bec-Fin, our host tried to order what we considered to be an outlandishly expensive bottle. Moore pushed back with appropriate politesse, suggesting a less pricey bottle that would invariably outpoint the first.

Those who declined Moore's advice would pair Perrier's foie gras with 1971 Chateau Climens, Weinbach Selection de Grains Nobles, or '59, '67 or '76 Chateau d'Yquem. But that night at Le Bec-Fin, our host trusted the wine pairing to the refinement of Moore's palate -- and his underselling disposition. Five minutes later, Gregory was uncorking one of the most unforgettable whites we've ever tasted.

Most of the steep slopes of the northern Rhone are planted to Syrah, with the noble reds of Cote Rotie and Hermitage setting the bar by which all of the world's Syrah has long been measured. But on a few, somewhat cooler, calcareous slopes in Hermitage, a few growers dedicate a few acres to Marsanne and Roussanne. In exceptional vintages -- and in the most elegant hands -- Hermitage Blanc gives Montrachet all it can handle. Such would be the case on that October night at Le Bec-Fin.

Unlike the Barsac, Sauternes and late harvest Riesling on neighboring tables, the white wine Gregory Moore poured was dry. It came from Hermitage. The vintage was 1979. The producer's name was Jean-Louis Chave. With the exception of the 1985 and 2001 Chave Hermitage Blanc (graciously offered to us by Sashi Moorman at his home in Lompoc), we've never tasted an Hermitage Blanc that measured up to Chave's 1979. Until last Wednesday.

Super-negociant Michel Tardieu's 2009 Hermitage Blanc rolled our olfactory clocks back nearly thirty years, taking a brilliant page out of a Jean-Louis Chave's Le Bec-Fin script. Brilliant pale golden in color with luscious aromas of mango and papaya, plush and persistent. Rich, seemingly forward like great Grand Cru Burgundy, yet still somehow holding back -- at once opulent and restrained -- all the flashy concentration buttressed by fabulous mineral vibrancy.

The entire production was just fifteen barrels, only 480 bottles of which made it stateside. One of those found their way to James Molesworth at the Wine Spectator. Molesworth went wild, calling Tardieu's 2009 Hermitage Blanc "very lush, opulent style, with mango, papaya, quince and pear flavors allied to a creamy, sweetened butter frame," before lobbing on 94 points.

Tasting Notes

2009 Tardieu-Laurent Hermitage Blanc
"A very lush, opulent style, with mango, papaya, quince and pear flavors allied to a creamy, sweetened butter frame. The long finish has floral and bitter almond hints for contrast and balance as the fruit sails on. Drink now through 2017. 375 cases made."
94 points -- James Molesworth, Wine Spectator


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