From the December 2013 issue of Wine Advocate:
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.
2011 Chapoutier Ermitage l’Ermite Blanc
Always more dense, backward and focused, the 2011 Ermitage L’Ermite Blanc has everything I could want out of a white. Flower oil, apricot, honeysuckle, brioche, powdered rock and assorted tropical notes are just some of the nuances here, and this incredible wine is full-bodied and massive, yet elegant, fresh and delineated. Count yourself lucky if you’re able to latch onto a couple of these!
2011 Chapoutier Ermitage le Pavillon
Even better and a prodigious effort that hits all my sweet spots, the 2011 Ermitage Le Pavillon comes from one of the top terroirs on Hermitage hill, the granite soils of the Les Bessards lieu-dit. Spectacularly perfumed, with raspberry, blackberry, licorice, toasted spices and assorted floral nuances, this full-bodied effort has massive depth and richness, no hard edges and masses of finely polished tannin that emerge on and frame the finish. It will be approachable at an earlier age than either the 2009 or 2010, yet should nevertheless have 2-3 decades of ultimate longevity.
2011 Chapoutier Ermitage Cuvee de l’Oree
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.
2011 Chapoutier Ermitage le Meal Blanc
In the same league and from one of the warmest terroirs on Hermitage hill, the 2011 Ermitage Le Meal Blanc is a massive effort that has overflowing amounts of tropical fruits, white flowers, creme brulee, buttered peaches, licorice and striking, liquid rock-like minerality. Full-bodied, voluptuous and awesome any way you look at it, it too can be enjoyed any time over the coming 3-4 decades.
2011 Chapoutier Ermitage le Meal
One of the wines of the vintage, the spectacular 2011 Ermitage Le Meal is borderline perfection. Loaded with dark fruits, charcoal, roasted herbs, liquid violet and crushed rock-like minerality, it flows onto the palate with full-bodied richness, layers of texture and superb concentration. Offering uncommon richness and texture in the vintage, it should have two decades of longevity (and be drinkable for most of it).
2011 Chapoutier Ermitage l’Ermite
As expected, the 2011 Ermitage l’Ermite, which comes from the lieu-dit of the same name, is more backward and focused, with a slightly closed, tight profile. Slowly giving up ample cassis and black raspberry fruit, graphite, licorice and edgy minerality, it is full-bodied, deeply concentrated and tannic, yet still never puts a foot wrong and is perfectly balanced and seamless. Give it 3-4 years in the cellar and enjoy over the following two decades or more.
2011 Chapoutier Condrieu Coteaux du Chery
I was blown away by the 2011 Condrieu Coteaux du Chery! One of the top Condrieu I was able to taste during my more than two weeks spent working in the region, it boasts spectacular, exotic notes of ginger, apricot, tangerine and white flowers to go with a full-scaled, seriously fruited, yet ethereal and elegant feel on the palate. Tasting like the essence of Condrieu, it too is blockbuster stuff that I wish every reader could taste.
2011 Chapoutier St Joseph le Clos
The 2011 St.-Joseph Le Clos is hard to fault. Also with low acidity and a precocious, forward, sexy style, it gives up ample raspberry, rose petal, pepper, underbrush and distinct minerality to go with a full-bodied, beautifully concentrated feel on the palate. Slightly more dense and serious than the Les Granits, it should nevertheless have a similar evolution.
2011 Chapoutier Crozes Hermitage les Varonniers
The 2011 Crozes-Hermitage Les Varonnieres (which is a significant step up over the 2012) got a big “Wow” in my notes and is a brilliant Crozes-Hermitage. Cote Rotie-like with its perfumed floral, bacon fat, spice and olive-driven bouquet, this full-bodied, supple and downright sexy Syrah makes the most of the vintage. Enjoy it over the coming decade or so.
2011 Chapoutier St Joseph les Granits
Another stunner is the 2011 St.-Joseph Les Granits. It’s made in a forward, accessible style and offers up gorgeous blackberry, crushed flowers, toasted bread, licorice and background meatiness to go with full-bodied richness and depth on the palate. Already approachable, with knockout complexity and loads of fruit, it should drink nicely over the coming 10-12 years.
2011 Chapoutier St Joseph les Granits Blanc
A gorgeous white that savvy consumers should snatch up, the 2011 St.-Joseph Les Granits Blanc is a smoking Marsanne that, as Northern Rhone whites go, represents an incredible value. Loaded with tropical fruits, melon, buttered citrus and bitter orange rind, this full-bodied beauty has knockout texture and richness, great acidity and blockbuster length.
2011 Chapoutier Cote Rotie la Mordoree
The 2011 Cote Rotie La Mordoree is an undeniable success in the vintage. Medium to full-bodied, concentrated and with solid mid-palate concentration, this forward, plump and straight up delicious Cote Rotie offers plenty of floral, bacon, dried herbs and raspberry-styled aromas and flavors. Enjoy it over the coming decade.
2011 Chapoutier Ermitage les Greffieux Vieilles Vignes
The accessible, layered and fruit-forward 2011 Ermitage Les Greffieux will reward immediate gratification. Exhibiting plenty of blueberry, violets and exotic flowers, it is a full-bodied, mouth-filling and delicious effort to drink over the coming 8-10 years.