Domaines Paul Jaboulet Ainé: Parallele 45 Trio

6 07 2016

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]

There are not many producer names as synonymous with their home region as Jaboulet and France’s Rhone Valley.  From their pinnacle bottling La Chapelle from the world-renowned hill of Hermitage (which I have had once and vividly remember to this day) down through the rest of their lineup, the wines of Domaines Paul Jaboulet Ainé are known and revered the world over, although until recently they were decidedly under-represented in our market.  That has now thankfully changed, and Alberta once again has full access to some of the best wines the Rhone has to offer.

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The Jaboulet winery was first started by Antoine Jaboulet in 1834, who then passed it to his two sons, Paul and Henri, to carry on his legacy.  Paul, the older son, gave the winery his name (the “Ainé” in “Domaines Paul Jaboulet Ainé” literally translates to “eldest”), and it stayed in the family for almost 175 years before finally being sold in 2006 to the Freys, a family of French winemakers with properties in Champagne and Bordeaux.  Caroline Frey (fittingly the eldest daughter of the family), who is now 37 and so was in her late 20s at the time of the acquisition, assumed the mantle of winemaker and has instituted sustainable vineyard practices and carried forward Jaboulet’s reputation for classic quality.

Parallele 45 is Jaboulet’s entry-level lineup of Cotes du Rhone wines, so named because the 45th parallel of northern latitude runs right through the Rhone Valley, bisects some of the Domaine’s vineyards and is only a couple kilometres from its cellars.  The bottles all bear an inscription found on a monument in the nearby village of Pont de l’Isere (which, and I am not making this up, is at 45.0040 degrees N latitude):  “Ici Commence Le Sud” – The South Starts Here.  Post de l’Isere looks to be on the southern edge of the Northern Rhone as opposed to the northern edge of the South, but the mantra still fits, and Jaboulet’s wines straddle both sides of the Valley.  I got to taste through the full Parallele 45 lineup – white, pink and red, all of which share the same $18ish wallet-friendly price tag – and see how well they carried forward the tradition of this great name.

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2015 Parallele 45 Cotes du Rhone Blanc

An intriguing blend of 50% Grenache Blanc, 20% Marsanne, 20% Viognier and 10% Bourboulenc from 25 year-old vines, this white is an almost eerie greenish golden colour in the glass and gives off approachable pear and lime aromas, as well as a combination of smells I can best describe as “outside”:  fresh air, daisies, drying laundry on a clothesline, honeycomb, rain on grass.  That aromatic pleasantness is compressed and frozen solid on the palate, which reflects back similar flavours in a leaner, tauter way, with crystalline citrus, honeydew, cheek-puckering acidity and a chalky mineral finish.  The generosity of the nose stands in stark contrast to the austerity of the palate, but that sharp split piqued my curiosity and kept me coming back for more.

88 points

$15 to $20 CDN

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Cork Rating: 3/10 (Sometimes you can improve on tradition.)

2015 Parallele 45 Cotes du Rhone Rose

The pink Parallele is made using the saignée method, where a portion of a soon-to-be-red wine is “bled off” and drained away from contact with the grape skins after only a short time, thereby both generating slightly tinted juice for rose and concentrating and deepening the remaining red.  It is a common Southern Rhone blend of 50% Grenache, 40% Cinsault (the champion grape of French pink wine) and 10% Syrah and (pleasantly) surprised me a bit with its fairly deep, orange-tinged salmon colour, a refreshing change from the oddly pale roses that seem to be increasingly in fashion.  This was the exact opposite sensory experience of the Parallele white, with a somewhat muted aromatic profile of strawberries, peach iced tea and pomegranate unfolding and launching into a lush and energetic palate that was itself a contrast.  Piercing flavours of pink grapefruit, bath salts, tangerine and watermelon rind are juxtaposed with a round, generous, sensuous mouthfeel that carries into a tingly and racy finish.  I could drink this every day, and at this price I could afford to.

89+ points

$15 to $20 CDN

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2013 Parallele 45 Cotes du Rhone Rouge

Grenache (60%) completes its dominance of the Parallele trio, blended this time with 40% Syrah in a notably intensely coloured, nearly opaque ruby-purple red, perhaps as a by-product of the saignée method described above.  The powerful yet creamy cherry-driven nose is like a Dr. Pepper float, just delicious beams of ripe red fruit and vanilla.  It doesn’t taste as confectionary as it smells, controlled to some extent by fine powdery tannins and supporting flavours of cinnamon sticks, earth, pepper and spice, but red cherry fruit still carries the day into a dusty finish.  This comes across as a little disjointed on its own but knits together better with food.  None of the Parallele 45 wines will remotely disappoint at their price tag, but in terms of excelling against similar-cost competition, I would give Parallele pink and white the slight nod over Parallele red.

87- points

$15 to $20 CDN

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