Last year I reported on the staggering 1994 Crozes-Hermitage Le Varonniers. This is one of the new stars of the Chapoutier portfolio, and is clearly the finest Crozes-Hermitage I have ever tasted. Only 4,000 bottles were produced. In essence, it is as good, if not better than most other producers' Hermitage. It offers thrilling levels of cassis fruit intermingled with aromas of licorice, smoke, flowers, and powdered stone. Extremely full and dense, this is a compelling example of what Crozes-Hermitage can achieve. Chapoutier's top cuvees are consistently among the world's greatest wines. Unfortunately, they are made in extremely small quantities, ranging from 250 cases of the St.-Joseph Les Granites, to 600 cases of the Hermitage La Pavillon. They are also expensive, but no one can argue the fact that consumers are getting some of the world's greatest, most natural expressions of terroir, varietal character, and vintage personality. Moreover, these special cuvees have been remarkably brilliant in such difficult vintages as 1992 and 1993, where the finest Rhone wines were produced by Chapoutier. If my tasting notes read like a promotional campaign for this estate, it is because these are among the greatest wines I have ever tasted. Michel Chapoutier is quick to say that 1995 is one of the all-time great vintages for the northern Rhone, and in particular for Chapoutier. He compares it with 1990, 1961, and 1947. He is also quick to see the problems that 1995 presented, and the fact that too many Rhone Valley producers followed the same pattern as in 1994. In the latter vintage, it was essential to harvest early, but in 1995 harvesting early only produced wines that were made from physiologically unripe fruit, with extremely high acidity. Chapoutier's top vineyards in Crozes-Hermitage, St.-Joseph, Cote Rotie, and Hermitage were harvested very late - in early October. He claims that in the five years that have passed since the great 1990 vintage, he is a far more talented winemaker as he knew how to make noise in 1990, but now I know how to make music. Yields were tiny throughout all the estate vineyards, with most of the vineyards coming in under 20 hectoliters per hectare, and some of the top vineyards harvesting under a ton of fruit per acre. All in all, 1995 looks to be a sensational vintage for Chapoutier, with a number of extremely long-lived wines. Moreover, now that the 1994s have had some time in bottle, it can be said that 1994 is also a great vintage for this firm. Robert Parker, Wine Advocate # 107.
Robert Parker Score: 93/100
|6x75cl||-||0 Immediate | 1 Marketplace||£331.00|