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Average critic rating : 94.0 points
The inky/black/purple-colored 2009 Ermitage Les Greffieux (473 cases) offers a stunning perfume of crushed rocks, lead pencil shavings, spring flowers, licorice, blackberries and blueberries. Impressively endowed as well as tannic and backward, with good acidity, this 2009 needs a decade of cellaring and should evolve effortlessly for 35-50+ years. ||As I have written many times, all of these wines are produced from rigidly cultivated, bio-dynamically managed vineyards. That has been the rule since Michel Chapoutier first took over this firm in the late 1980s. Now, with over 20 years of biodynamic viticulture under his belt, Chapoutier remains committed to this rather radical style of organic farming. He believes the effect is to reduce rot in damp, rainy vintages. Moreover, he has observed that after 10 to 15 years of biodynamic farming, the natural acids tend to be more vivid and the overall pH of the soils (as well as the wines) has dropped. Controversial, outspoken and brutally candid, Chapoutier, who suffers no fools, continues to admirably produce wines that are among the finest in the world and potentially the longest lived. Refusing to acidify, chaptalize, or touch the wines in any way, he clearly wants every wine to capture the very essence of its terroir and vintage personality. In this, he succeeds remarkably. No one has made more effort in resurrecting the once-forgotten backwater appellation of St.-Peray than Michel Chapoutier. Working in conjunction with the famed Michelin three-star restaurant family, the Pics, Chapoutier has produced a sensational 2010 Gamme Pic and Chapoutier St.-Peray, and the first single-vineyard St.-Peray, the 2010 Lieu-Dit Peyrolles St.-Peray, which is one of the greatest St.-Perays I have ever tasted. This appellation is all steep hillside vineyards planted in pure, decomposed granite soils, not dissimilar from Hermitage, but they are located on the other side of the Rhone, facing the city of Valence. The single-vineyard wines, or selections parcellaires, 2010 whites are absolutely amazing, with production levels ranging from 300 to 700 or 800 cases of each cuvee. These wines are for true connoisseurs, as they are expensive and meant for long, long evolutions, but they capture the essence of a vintage and terroir as well as any wines in the world. As for the selections parcellaires of 2010 reds, Chapoutier likes this vintage almost as much as 2009, but feels it is very different, emphasizing more acidity and minerality, whereas 2009 is a combination of pure power, concentration and great potential longevity. Michel Chapoutier considers the 2009s, which are all in bottle, to be among the greatest wines he has ever produced, equaling his finest wines of 2006, 2003, 1999, 1990 and 1989 (his debut year). Wine Advocate.December, 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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