Greffieux, northern Rhône’s rising star; 92-95 points for 2013, writes Jeb Dunnuck for Wine AdvocatePosted: September 18, 2014
Michel Chapoutier’s vineyard-designated (sélection parcellaire) Greffieux is quickly rising in prominence as one of the greatest expression of the northern Rhône. It lies toward the bottom of the storied Hermitage vineyards, just beneath Méal. In another era, it was used in classically blended Hermitage. But today, Michel’s pioneering work in biodynamics and his desire to bottle Greffieux as a single-vineyard wine has shown its enormous potential to produce some of the world’s greatest Syrah.
“Greffieux’s soil contains some granite,” writes Rhône authority John Livingstone-Learmonth in The Wines of the Northern Rhône (University of California Press, 2005), but here there is more clay and also fine elements than higher up the hill… Greffieux is also stony, the alluvion stones on it being glacier residues… There is limestone in Greffieux, and the wine is refined by nature, and higher in acidity than many… The tannins never demand a long wait, and the wine opens and delivers earlier… [It] produces a wine that is firmer and more soundly structured.”
It’s no wonder that it’s a growing site that “Michel is liking more and more,” as Jeb Dunnuck wrote this summer in Wine Advocate, giving the current release 2013 a 92-95 (projected) score.
Here’s what Dunnuck had to say about the site in the August 2014 issue:
The 2013 Ermitage Les Greffieux has a saturated, inky color to go with beautiful purity and focus. Smoke, liquid rock, violets, graphite and cassis and black raspberry-styled fruit emerge from the glass, and this medium to full-bodied, layered, effort has good concentration, integrated acidity and plenty of length. It should end up being a mid-90 scoring wine that will round into form nicely with a handful of years in the cellar and drink nicely for 15 years or more.
Michel Chapoutier continues to knockout it out of the park with his tiny, single plot “Selections Parcellaires” releases from throughout the Rhone Valley. For this tasting, we focused on three of his northern Rhones: the Saint Joseph Les Granits, which is the largest production cuvee of the three; his new release, the Saint Joseph Les Clos, from a newly replanted vineyard that’s just now coming online; and his Ermitage Les Greffieux, which is a vineyard that Michel is liking more and more. Starting off with the Saint Josephs, Chapoutier’s Les Granits releases, both in red and white, lead the way in terms of quality in the appellation. Looking at the Saint Joseph red that’s the focus here, this roughly 500-case release (it can get close to 1,000 cases in some vintage) comes from the lieux-dits Saint Joseph and Les Chames, both of which are located around the towns of Mauve and Tournon, and have superb, southerly exposure. The lieu-dit Saint Joseph is the vineyard that the appellation is named after, and it’s a gorgeous, steep, south-facing vineyard planted on pure decomposed granite soils. The wine is 100% Syrah, from 60-to-70-year old vines, and sees a similar elevage to all of Chapoutier’s Syrahs, with the grapes completely destemmed and aging occurring in a scant 20-25% new French oak barrels. As I hope these notes show, it ages beautifully, but also dishes out loads of pleasure in its youth as well. It just so happens to also represent an awesome value. Moving to Chapoutier’s newest Saint Joseph, the Saint Joseph Les Clos comes from a southeasterly facing vineyard, located high up on the slope and only one kilometer from the Les Granit that was replanted in 1990. While it was widely recognized for quality wine in the past, the vineyard wasn’t replanted after it was wiped out due to phylloxera. It too, is all decomposed granite, yet has a different exposure than the Les Granits, and the wines show additional purity, minerality and structure. The first release was in 2011, and the quality here is shocking; these new releases have more than a passing resemblance to a top Hermitage coming from the Les Bessards lieu-dit. Hold onto your hats and jump on board, because with wines like this, Saint Joseph is going to be the next hot commodity! Moving to Chapoutier Hermitage releases, there’s normally 300 cases or so of the Ermitage Les Greffieux, when comes from a lieu-dit that’s located at the bottom of the Meal, butting right up against the outskirts of Tain Hermitage. The soils here are varied, with alluvial and sediment soils giving way to deep rolled pebbles (a la Chateauneuf du Pape) as you move further up the slope. While this plot has been more widely recognized as white-wine territory, Michel makes one serious red Hermitage from it. It’s also noteworthy that this plot could be considered a clos, as it’s completely surrounded by a stone wall. As with Michel’s other Syrah, he’s moving away from huge amounts of new oak, and this cuvee is completely destemmed (this is the norm for Hermitage) and is aged in 20-25% new French oak today.
From the October 2014 issue of Wine Spectator:
M. Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage White Petite Ruche 2012
A fresh style, with pineapple, apple, peach and melon flavors bouncing along, backed by a light bitter almond thread that holds the finish. Fresh acidity should help this stretch out with brief cellaring. Drink now through 2015. 2,000 cases made.
M. Chapoutier 2003 La Bernardine
“Despite its age,” writes top wine writer Nick Passmore for Forbes this week, “this La Bernardine is glowing with red-fruit vibrancy; raspberry, strawberry and red cherry exuberance. Yet the dozen years in the bottle have backed these up with a mellow smokiness, and just enough oak to provide roundness without smothering all that glorious fruit.”
“As the vintage indicates, this is un vin de garde, a wine that rewards, or has rewarded in this case, aging. You can drink the current vintages now, but it would be a crime, so by all means buy the newer releases, but put them away, and spend your time hunting out mature beauties like this.”
Passmore gives the wine five stars, his highest rating.
Here’s what leading wine writer Bill St. John had to say about the 2011 M. Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage La Petite Ruche in last week’s Chicago Tribune:
2011 M. Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage “La Petite Ruche,” Rhone, France: All syrah, on the accessible side; mildly tannic, effusively fruity, round and rich; black cherry with grace notes of anise and earth.
New scores from Wine Enthusiast Rhône editor Joe Czerwinski (Advanced Guide):
M. Chapoutier 2010 Monier de la Sizeranne Hermitage (Cellar Selection)
Perhaps the best Sizeranne I’ve ever tasted, the 2010 displays extra levels of richness and structure. Plum and coffee-bean notes are lightened and brightened by hints of cherries and raspberries that linger easily on the velvety finish. Delicious already, it should continue to drink well through at least 2020.
M. Chapoutier 2010 Les Arènes Cornas
A hint of cedar accents aromas of black olive and plum, while the flavors manage to blend those elements into a harmonious, savory package before ending on a lengthy espresso note. This finely textured Cornas may be tough to come by, as only 60 six packs were imported. Drink now–2020.
M. Chapoutier Hermitage White Chante-Alouette 2012
Salted butter, chamomile, lemon rind and white peach notes course along, inlaid with honeysuckle and verbena hints. Mineral-driven finish. Drink now through 2022.—James Molesworth