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Average critic rating : 96.0 points
In complete contrast to the sexy, flamboyant les Granits, the tiny production 2012 Saint Joseph le Clos (which comes from a vineyard just a couple kilometers from the les Granits) is firm, tight and structured, with edgy notes of cassis, blackberry, powdered rock and ground herbs. Full-bodied, concentrated and rich, it needs 3-4 years in the cellar, and will have two decades of longevity. This is almost non-existent in the marketplace, but it's worth the effort to track down.||Michel Chapoutier has once again produced one of the reference-point lineups for the entire Rhône Valley. Certainly, his 2012s lived up to my billing last year, and they’re easily some of the finest efforts produced in the vintage, not only with his top cuvees in Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, but also in the up-and-coming appellation of St Joseph, as well as in Condrieu (where his Coteaux du Chery is one of the finest in the appellation), St Péray and Crozes Hermitage. You can see my thrilled reviews on his 2012 Southern Rhônes in Issue 215. His 2012 whites were all reviewed last year from bottle, but they were included again in the massive tasting at this estate this year, so I opted to include them again. They all showed as good, if not better, than last year. Tasted out of bottle this year, the Le Meal, Pavillon and l’Ermite came in at the top of their barrel reviews from last year, which puts them on par with what was accomplished in 2009 and 2010. That’s shocking to me, but the proof is in the glass, as they say. |Incredibly, I find the quality in the 2013s almost as compelling, and Michel thinks there’s more than one perfect wine in that lineup. His Le Meal and Les Greffieux releases, in particular, seem to have hit another level recently. These will see an extended élevage in barrel, and I suspect a few will still be in barrel next year for my tastings as well. The 2013 whites are some of the finest I’ve ever tasted from him, and they have incredible concentration, depth and length, with beautiful acidity and freshness. Marsanne just doesn’t get any better than what’s put into his le Meal, l’Ermite and de L’Orée cuvees. A wine I think competes at that level (and I’ve had it side by side numerous times) is his Saint Joseph Les Granits Blanc. Unfortunately, it’s now being priced at roughly the same level and falls outside what I would normally classify as value. Nevertheless, it’s a world-class example of Northern Rhône white and will age for two decades or more. However, a wine that’s still a smoking value is his Chante Alouette, and readers wanting to get a small taste of what’s offered by his upper-tier whites need to get a bottle (or more) of the 2012. |Other wines to keep on your radar are his single-vineyard releases from Domaine de Bila Haut in the Roussillon. These are incredible wines and I’ll report on the new releases from here early next year.| eRobertParker.com.December, 2014
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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