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Average critic rating : 96.0 points
Even better and always one of the top whites in any given vintage, the 2011 Ermitage Cuvee de l’Oree (first produced in 1991) comes from 80+-year-old Marsanne vines planted in the Les Murets lieu-dit. Gorgeously full-bodied and impeccably put together on the palate, with awesome texture and richness that’s framed by vibrant acidity, it boasts off the hook aromas and flavors of flower oil, buttered citrus, dried pineapple and powdered rock. It will be even better in another year, and age pretty much forever. As I’ve said before though, there is no harm in drinking these beauties in their youth. ||This was an incredible tasting with Michel Chapoutier and his second hand man, Pierre-Henri Morel. Certainly one of the success stories in wine, which Robert Parker does a fabulous job of detailing in Issue 204, this estate goes from strength to strength in just about every appellation in the Rhone Valley. Looking specifically at Hermitage, Chapoutier owns a massive 64 acres, mostly on the famed Bessards lieu-dit, yet also with significant portions on Le Meal, L’Ermite and Les Greffieux, with smaller portions in the Beaume and Murets lieux-dits. From this he fashions five reds (Monier De La Sizeranne, Les Greffieux, Le Meal, Le Pavillon and L’Ermite) and four whites (Chante Alouette, Cuvee de l’Oree, Le Meal Blanc and L’Ermite Blanc), all of which are brilliant wines, with the best ranking up alongside the top wines in the world. In addition, his Saint Josephs (Les Granits and Le Clos) are some of the leading wines of the appellation (along with Guigal’s Vignes de l’Hospice and a few others), and his Cote Rotie La Mordoree, which comes from his 12 acres (split between the roughly defined Cote Blonde and Cote Brune regions), is always a classic example of the appellation. I was also able to taste through a full lineup of his Languedoc and Roussillon releases, all of which were impressive. I’ll review those wines in my 2014 coverage on those regions. Looking at the 2011 whites, these were all tasted by Robert Parker last year, but since I tasted through the lineup, I opted to include reviews here as well. Wine Advocate.December, 2013
100% Marsanne. Vibrant gold in the glass. Richer and fresher than Le Meal - more honeyed. Riper and fleshier on the palate, enveloping it with celery, grass and wet stone characters. The fruit is still a little hidden, but could go onto be a great L'Oree. FINE+RARE
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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