The quintessential classicist Jean-Paul Jamet is revered by those who love Côte Rôtie of incredible nuance and ethereal balance. If you’re looking for blockbuster Côte Rôtie brimming with new oak and extract, you should look elsewhere. But if perfume and texture’s your thing, Jamet Côte Rôties are among the planet’s greatest wine experiences
The key to a Jamet Côte Rôtie’s fantastic complexity and balance is Jean-Paul and Jean-Luc’s array of terroirs within the appellation. As Jean-Paul told John Livingstone-Learmonth, “We have 25 plots spread across 17 lieux-dits.” Every year the Jamet brothers carefully select from these sites to craft a highly nuanced wine of haunting perfume, silky texture, elegance and finesse.
The brothers have a quarter-century of experience working the Côte Rôtie slopes, having taken charge of the family domaine upon father Joseph Jamet’s retiring in the mid-1980s. As a result, the Jamets have strong opinions on what influences the character of the wines from these different locations. For them, the nature of the soil is what matters most, followed by altitude.
The majority of their lieux-dits are on the Côte Brune, whose brown schist soils produce black fruited Syrah, with strong tannic structure and longevity. They have just two sites on Côte Blonde granite, and these provide the less structured floral, red fruit character that balances the Brune fruit so well.
And, just as the two Côtes complement each other, so do the varying altitudes—the wine from the high, cooler and windier sites leavening the rich, structured juice from the middle of the slopes.
Yet, while this expertly tended palette of terroirs is the envy of many Côte Rôtie growers, Jean-Paul and Jean-Luc don’t necessarily use all of these sites for the flagship wine in a given year.
Rather, they strive “to find the best balance in the conditions of the vintage;” if a particular cuvée, regardless of how fine it is, would upset this balance, it is left out. As a result, year after year Jamet is the essence of Côte Rôtie, a wine of seductive texture and astonishing perfume.
Their approach to making this wine is “classicist”: they use modern methods where they are of benefit, but they fiercely defend the idea that Côte Rôtie should taste like Côte Rôtie. For the Jamet brothers, this means using mostly whole clusters for the primary fermentation in stainless steel which lasts about three weeks.
The wine ages in piéces and demi-muids, only 20% new, for about two years and is neither fined nor filtered.
Note: This article was written prior to the break-up of the domaine, with brothers Jean-Paul and Jean-Luc Jamet going their separate ways in 2013. We have yet to confirm how the split will affect the vineyards Jean-Paul has to work with now. However, one can be sure that his philosophy and approach—and the excellence of his Côte Rôtie—will not have changed.
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