Michel Chapoutier is highlighted in this recent article by Jim Seder as one of the small handful of renown producers that make incredible wine from Hermitage Hill.
“I’ve often heard Michele Chapoutier pay homage to the role that geology plays in the character of wine from Hermitage Hill in the Northern Rhone Valley of France. With intense pride and conviction, he boasts that it contains four key geological eras and thus a potpourri of soil ranging from granite, schist, clay, sandstone and alluvial.
From a family of winemakers since the early 1800’s, Michele took the reins over in 1990 and today, along with his team, crafts out what some say are the very finest old world Syrah, Marsanne & Roussanne in the world. I think it’s fair to say that his wines reflect a focus, intensity, and terroir driven biodynamic approach that is rarely equaled.” –JIM SEDER
Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be posting reviews from this great feature article on our site. Stay tuned for more ratings and tasting notes on Michel Chapoutier’s wines from Hermitage to come!
L’Ermite rouge: is resourced from the top of the Hill in a plot called L’Hermite (L’Ermite) around the famed Chapel from 80 year old vines planted in nutrient poor granitic soils. This site, along with Les Bessards, is often considered the prime vineyard property of Hermitage Hill. Grapes are hand harvested, destemmed (this approach varies vintner to vintner as well as the ripeness of the vintage), and fermented in concrete tanks for around four weeks at temperatures less than 32C, using only free run juice. The wine is then transferred to one year old casks where it ages for 18-20 months. The wine is usually very inky dark, reflecting a Syrah persona with lots of red currant & blackberry fruit along with classic notes of spice, smoke, pepper and an iron cut. While tannins are big, they are often simultaneously quite round and smooth, framing a long finish. The marriage of luscious dark fruit, fantastic structure and acidity lend the wine the balance to age effortlessly, in some vintages a half century.
L’Ermite blanc: WI Score: 100
is a 100% Marsanne wine that I can only describe as a hedonistic, luscious, concentrated bomb of rich and ripe flavors that rivals any white, including Burgundy! An insane bouquet of aromatics from almond paste, bitter almond, tropical white fruits, ripe apricot, orange rind, caramelized peach & tangerine, wet stone & honeysuckle tease the nose alongside a minerality that just defies expression in its youth and middle age! As the wine becomes mature, the color darkens to a nutty honeyed gold, with aromas of crème brulee, honey, spice, nuts and hints of white pepper. Some argue, and I’m one of them, that the Ermitage whites often portray as big as Syrah, tannins and all.
The purity and precision of expression is so linear and focused and the finish just won’t quit! One of the defining palate characteristics of top Marsanne is a sense of unctuousness, of oiliness and butter yielding an intense richness. While the elements vary in intensity from vintage to vintage, this is a wine that has to be tasted to be believed. From the same plot as the rouge, the wine is fermented between 18 & 20C and aged in up to 80% new oak. After a long period of fermentation, the wine remains on the lees for 10-12 months with regular stirrings. These wines often go through what’s referred to as a “dumb” period early on or as Michele says, “a crises of adolescence” where the complete aromatic profile is a bit disjointed until the final bouquet weaves its magic in the bottle (and trust me, it does). For his wines, this period occurs between three and six years post harvest, emerging slowly over the next few to yield one of the world’s finest white wines. As you might expect, nearly all of Michele’s white hermitage are ageworthy for at least 30 years and likely far beyond.
To read more from Jim Seder, please click here.