2012 Domaine Jaume Vinsobres Altitude 420 Cotes du Rhone

2012 Domaine Jaume Vinsobres Altitude 420 Cotes du Rhone

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A past Wine Access story about 2012 Domaine Jaume Vinsobres Altitude 420 Cotes du Rhone

All orders placed today will ship next week — shipping included on 6 bottles or more.

Corkiness and the Resolve Chez Jaume


It’s easy to look back on our early days of importing with a happy sense of nostalgia — the truth is we were young and under immense pressure not to squander the $30,000 in our opening bank account. We traveled the back roads of France, knocking on doors, purchasing a little bit of wine from a handful of producers we’d discovered over the years — and sometimes we hit paydirt.

After reading about Domaine Jaume in the British press, we paid our first visit to Pascal and Richard Jaume on May 15, 1992, and had our first taste of the 1990 Vinsobres.

That vintage was a glorious one, a sensational year in the southern Rhône, in many ways quite similar to the knockout 2012s (which would earn 37 reviews of 95-99 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate). At first, we pinched pennies and purchased just 14 cases of the 1990 vintage. We only had to open one bottle, tasting it with two store owners and one sommelier, before those 14 cases were spoken for. We ordered 28 more, and then backed that up with another order. That’s when we received the letter (yes, the LETTER!) from Richard saying that the 1990 vintage was sold out. Would we take the 1991?

Why not? We blindly ordered 56 cases, a solid pallet of the 1991 Vinsobres. But before that wine even hit port, we received a call from Richard. There was a problem with the wine. A big problem.

Just two weeks after our pallet shipped but before it landed, the first complaint was registered. Pascal, Richard’s older brother, went to the cellar and began popping corks. Richard came running, sharing in the bottle-popping frenzy. It didn’t take long for the brothers to realize what had happened, even if they couldn’t begin to consider the consequences.

The pallets they’d purchased in mid-summer had been treated with a chemical. That chemical, meant to protect the wood, had also fueled an outbreak of Trichloroanisole, a natural compound which at high levels imparts a mustiness or “corkiness” to wine. All the wine in barrel, in tank, in bottle was contaminated by “corkiness” — not from the corks, but from those pallets.

When Richard called, he openly admitted that he was concerned about his insurance claim, was uncertain of the family’s future. But that didn’t keep him from telling us to tear up the invoice for the wine. A week later, he did one better. We received a check in the mail for $600 to cover all of our shipping and customs charges, with a short note of apology. The guy was going out of business — and he was apologizing!

In the years that followed, our business grew quickly, albeit without the Jaumes. Still, we hadn’t forgotten. And in 1996, when the next letter came — the first since the one that contained the reimbursement check — we were elated. They’d survived. Richard wrote that they’d managed to scrape up the money needed to supplement the insurance settlement so as to completely raze the old cellar and rebuild a new one. Would it be OK if he shipped us a bottle of his 1994?

Hopefully, by now, you get the picture. You have a taste of the commitment and resolve chez Jaume. Maybe it gives you added insight into why so many call the Jaumes’ “Altitude 420” the finest bottle, dollar-for-dollar, in the outskirts of Châteauneuf.

Drawn entirely from old-vine Grenache and Syrah grown at the highest perch of the Vinsobres appellation, their “Altitude 420” hits all the marks of The Wine Advocate’s “outstanding” 2012 vintage in the Southern Rhône. The growing season began with cool weather and issues during fruit set, setting the stage for lower yields. But a summer heat wave allowed the vines to surge ahead in the ripening cycle, finishing much like 2010, with harvest taking place under pristine conditions.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate concluded that the 2012 vintage produced “rich, fruit-loaded” wines that “will drink well in their youth and evolve nicely on their balance and harmony.” The Advocate goes even further, suggesting the wines from Vinsobres AOC possess “a northern Rhône quality in their acidity and tannin balance,” calling them “elegant and refined” in comparison to most Southern Rhône appellations.

If you’re an admirer of exceptional Southern Rhône gems, the 2012 Domaine Jaume “Altitude 420” is one of the most compelling wines you’ll drink this year. $24 on release. Just $16 on today’s Direct Import, right from the new and improved cellars in Vinsobres. All orders placed today will ship next week — shipping included on 6 bottles or more.

Expert Ratings and Reviews

88 Points Wine Spectator

Customer Ratings

Based on 70 ratings

I rated this wine as 3 stars. It was decent, not great. Acceptable, not outstanding. Pleasant, not exciting. I am also confused about your star rating system. When I'm asked to rate a wine, I see a total of 4 stars. Yet, the Average Rating shows 5 stars. 5 stars is technically a better rating method in my view.

Medium body, dry and tangy with hints of sour cherry, raspberry and cassis. A great wine for most meals except perhaps steak and those with heavy sauces. Very good value.

A tad more fruit would help, but for the price this is a sturdy, well-balanced CDR.

I was kind of disappointed with this wine when I first tasted it... I thought it had a kind of funky taste ( don't really know how to describe it ) and I started to think that I'd use it as a cooking wine. I was especially surprised because it's already 4 yrs old so I figured that a Cotes du Rhone should have gotten better over those 4 yrs. However, I've tried it again a day later, and I don't have such a negative impression.. It's not overwhelmingly fruity like the Bila-Haut... not much of a nose, what there is is earthy... quite dry on the palate, and again somewhat earthy.

three stars

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