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Average critic rating : 86.0 points
The 2008 Cornas Les Arenes reveals what Chapoutier describes as a bouquet of “chicken shit.” I’m not so sure I would go that far, but it there is a funky earthiness to this dark ruby/purple-colored wine as well as hints of red and black fruits, medium body and good acidity. It is an attractive effort for this vintage. ||Other extraordinary efforts readers should be watching for include the 2009 Bila Haut Lesquerde, a Syrah dominated wine that I scored in the upper-90s. Equally as profound, but made from a completely different blend is the Bila Haut Cotes du Roussillon Villages La Tour de France, which is a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah. Both of these offerings are as remarkable as wine can be. From Australia, some wines to take note of include the Domaine Tournon 2009 Shiraz (or Syrah), an outstanding red sold at a fair price, and his single vineyard offerings the 2009 Shiraz Shays’ Flat and the 2009 Shiraz Landsborough, both extraordinary, mid-90 point Syrahs from Victoria. Also, readers should not forget his 2009 La Pleiade M45, a Syrah from the Cambrian soils of Heathcote. An Australian wine that flirts with perfection, which I had never tasted before, is the 2009 Shiraz One Shot from Beechworth, which is like a liqueur of blueberries and raspberries intermixed with graphite, tar and minerality. Other stunning offerings from Domaine Terlato and Chapoutier include the 2009 Shiraz Malakoff (rated 92-94) and the 2009 Shiraz L Block (rated 93-95+). Last, but not least, Michel Chapoutier has entered the Portuguese wine arena, producing two extraordinary wines from a 5-hectare parcel in the Douro. The 2009 Touriga Nacional (rated 94-96) comes from pure schist soils. It reveals incredible floral notes intermixed with sweet blueberry, black raspberry and cassis. As amazing as it is, it may be surpassed by the 2009 Touriga Nacional Pinteivera from Pinhao. It is undeniably the single greatest red Portuguese wine I have ever tasted. It, too, is from schist soils. Both of these wines are remarkable efforts from what may be the world’s leading, irreverent genius in winemaking and winemaking philosophy. And one more thing about the remarkable Michel Chapoutier, he now has property in Alsace, Domaine Schieferkopf. I tasted a 2009 Riesling (rated 89), 2009 Riesling Buehl (rated 93), and 2009 Riesling Fels (rated 94). All are very dry, crisp, medium to full-bodied Rieslings from the Andlau sector of northern Alsace. These remarkable whites come from schist soils and Chapoutier has again demonstrated his Midas touch with a completely different varietal.||Michel Chapoutier is firmly convinced that 2009 is the greatest vintage in his lifetime, which means 2009 surpasses 2003 (he made some great wines in that unusual vintage), 1999, 1990 and 1989 (his debut vintage after taking over the firm). These wines are all produced by bio-dynamically farmed vineyards. Moreover, there is no chaptalization or acidification, and as Michel Chapoutier says, he wants to capture each vintage in photographic detail. It is also important to recognize Chapoutier’s life philosophy, which, rather than being obsessed with correcting one’s faults, is dedicated to capitalizing on one’s strengths. For all of his charm and bravado, Chapoutier is the quintessential man of the soil, a true terroiriste dedicated to producing the most vivid, natural and unadulterated expressions of the many different vineyards with which he works. While 2009 was a perfect year of extraordinary concentration as well as freshness, the 2008 vintage experienced huge rainstorms on September 5, 6 and 8. However, Chapoutier argues that while his bio-dynamically farmed vineyards suffered from some dilution, they had no sanitary problems like many other estates endured. Certainly his 2008s appear to be among the strongest efforts in a disappointing vintage in the Northern Rhone. One expects Chapoutier to excel with his four Hermitage vineyards (Le Pavillon, l’Ermite, Le Meal and Les Greffieux). Tasting through the 2009s reinforces the belief that this is one of the all-time great vintages for the entire Northern Rhone Valley. It couldn’t happen at a better time. While certain 2003s are great, there really hasn’t been an overall consistently profound vintage in the Northern Rhone since 1990. Connoisseurs should be stocking up on the single vineyard offerings, both white and red, which are spectacular. Michel Chapoutier makes a bevy of other wines that merit a few notes because they are so good. Even though they are not from my areas of responsibilities, I thought I would mention a few that stood out when I tasted with him. Like an itinerant genius, Chapoutier has projects in Australia, Portugal and southern France. I and my colleague David Schildknecht have written about his exquisite offerings from the Cotes du Roussillon under the label Domaine de Bila Haut, and his partnership with the Laughton family for his Agly Brothers Cotes du Roussillon rouge. These wines all merit attention from consumers. Wine Advocate.February, 2011
CHAPOUTIER: THE IMPORTANCE
Chapoutier has received more perfect 100 point scores from Robert Parker than any other winery, leading to Robert Parker saying that: “Michel Chapoutier's enthusiasm and commitment to exceptional, naturally made wines is a winemaking triumph, as well as a clear victory for all who care about the quality of wine.” Parker has also described Michel Chapoutier as “the world’s leading irreverent genius in winemaking and winemaking philosophy.” This has made Maison M. Chapoutier’s wines, alongside those of Etienne Guigal, some of the, if not the, most sought after wines from the Rhône Valley.
In 2016, Chapoutier was named the most admired French wine brand by Drinks International. Topping this annual list, put together by over 200 Masters of Wine, sommeliers, teachers and journalists, demonstrates the continuous improvement of quality, reflection of terroir and global appeal attained by this winery.
CHAPOUTIER: THE INSIGHT
Although they produce a large range of classic wines that are perfect for immediate drinking, it is their finest wines, the téte de cuvées, also known as Sélections Parcellaires or Single Vineyard Selections, which should be on every collector’s radars. These terroir-driven wines have the ability to age for several decades and hail from single plots of 50-100 year old vines in Côte-Rôtie (La Mordorée), Crozes-Hermitage (Les Varonniers), Hermitage or Ermitage as they call it (De l’Orée, L’Ermite, Le Méal, Le Pavillon, Les Greffieux and a sweet wine called Vin de Paille), Saint-Joseph (Le Clos and Les Granits) and Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Barbe Rac and Croix de Bois). These always high-scoring wines are the embodiment of terroir and are only produced in the hundreds of cases. So high is the demand for them that Chapoutier have started to release them En Primeur.
Due to Chapoutier’s attention to detail, the quality of their wine is extremely high even in lesser vintages. However, in exceptional vintages they truly excel. 2015, 2013 and 2010 were strong in both Northern and Southern Rhône, 2009, 2003 and 1999 offer excellent quality in the North as do 2007, 2001, 2000 and 1998 in the South. 1990, 1961 and 1947 have been described as legendary.
For those looking for something off-the-beaten-track, the hotly-tipped Bila-Haut wines from Roussillon demonstrate what a master of finding and exploiting terroir Michel Chapoutier is.
CHAPOUTIER: THE BACKGROUND
Maison M. Chapoutier is one of the undisputed elite of Rhône wine, if not the world. Based in Tain l’Hermitage, this winery and négociant business produces over seven million bottles of wine a year from the very southern extent of the Rhône Valley, through Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and Vacqueyras and up to the major appellations of the Northern Rhône. And it is here in the Northern Rhone that it makes its most famous wines; Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, Saint-Joseph, Condrieu and Côte-Rôtie.
Although this is a family-owned winery that is able to trace its roots within the region back through seven generations to 1808, it is not stuck in the mire of tradition and history. As its motto: “fac et spera” - which translates as do and hope - suggests, the focus is very much on innovation, modernity and the unorthodox.
Michel Chapoutier took control of the family business in 1988 and the quality of the wines produced skyrocketed. He has pushed his preference for single varietal wines, championed Rhône whites, introduced complete destemming before fermentation, converted all of the estate’s vineyards to biodynamic farming, reduced manipulation in the winery by avoiding acidification, filtration, fining and over-oaking and introduced braille labelling.
Not satisfied with that, Michel’s penchant for Champagne has driven him to produce one in collaboration with Devaux. This incredibly prolific man and team also own estates in Alsace, Roussillon, Australia and Portugal, as well as collaborating with French multiple Michelin star chefs Anne-Sophie Pic in Saint-Péray and the surrounding area (see Pic & Chapoutier) and Yannick Alléno in Saint-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage, and Michel has even expressed a desire to make wine in the UK.
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