The consequences of the late harvest, which characterizes 2013, were felt outside the Northern Rhône Valley. This peculiarity hit all European vineyards, from Alsace to Portugal, with varying effects, but notably resulting in an austere and northern character, providing a now rare but accurate reading of these different terroirs.
Here’s what LA Times food and restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila had to say about the 2011 Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz-Viognier (Feb. 5, 2014), a “terrific wine for everyday dinners”:
A fresh spicy Shiraz with a touch of Viognier from respected Rhone producer Michel Chapoutier and Napa Valley’s Anthony Terlato. The grapes, obviously, don’t come from either France or California, but from vines in central Victoria, Australia. Ruby red, the Shiraz-Viognier is ripe and round, full in the mouth, tasting of red berries, sweet spice and black pepper. And it’s priced low enough to make it your house wine.
From the Wine Advocate, January 2014:
2012 Chapoutier Banyuls
Chapoutier’s 2012 Banyuls – tasted from tank and due to have been bottled early last summer – projects mint chocolate-covered, jam-glazed, nutmeg-dusted black raspberry and strawberry garlanded in lily and heliotrope in a caressing performance whose sweetness never becomes dominant in itself, but instead perfectly supports the wine’s personality. Mint and mocha accompanied by persistent floral perfume inform a soothing, long finish with both confiture and juicy fresh concentration of berries beautifully dovetailing. If you didn’t already know that 2012 is a great vintage for Banyuls, this wine would certainly tip you off. I’d plan on following this for a decade or more.—David Schildknecht
2011 Chapoutier Banyuls
The Chapoutier 2011 Banyuls is overtly chocolaty, its black raspberry fruit taking on liqueur-like viscosity, sweetness and high-toned penetration. Expansive and grippingly persistent, while it lacks the refinement and complexity of the corresponding 2012, it’s still impressive stuff and ought to be worth following for at least 6-8 years.—David Schildknecht
Ermitage White L’Ermite 2011
Ripe and rich, with a warm piecrust frame around a core of salted butter, creamed Jonagold apple, verbena, shortbread and candied citrus rind, which all pump through the finish. Well-embedded acidity keeps this driving along. The finish is sneakily long, with a mineral element mixing with the ripe fruit. Best from 2016 through 2026. From France.—James Molesworth
Ermitage White de l’Orée 2011
The Jonagold apple, pear, persimmon and lemon curd notes glide along, carried by hints of brioche and macadamia nut before giving way to a lightly toasted almond edge on the finish. Still shows a hint of raw youth, so let this settle in the cellar. Best from 2016 through 2024. From France.—James Molesworth
M. Chapoutier Hermitage Monier de la Sizeranne 2011
Ripe, presenting a lovely ensemble of loganberry, raspberry and blackberry fruit at the core, backed by singed anise, alder and briar notes. Shows good energy through the finish, with a backdrop of mulled spice that should emerge with cellaring. Best from 2015 through 2021.
Wine Spectator Insider
January 22, 2014
“Everything, or almost everything, that can be said has probably already been said about the 2013 vintage,” writes Michel in his report on the 2013 harvest in Northern Rhône. “After the uninspiring weather in spring, 2013 had been criticized and written off early by practically everyone. Having rightly or wrongly been proclaiming the ‘vintage of the century year after year, in 2013 we are going to see a return to a style which we thought climate warming had made a thing of the past. As with any ‘challenging’ year, the understanding of the vintage’s particular characteristics and the subsequent decisions taken by the wine producers will have amplifying effects. The gestating wines will tell all in due course but, as we come out of the harvest, an objective insight was needed into the genesis of this vintage which we expect to give some pleasant surprises, in both white and red wines.”
Please click here to download a copy of the complete report including some fascinating charts illustrating weather patterns over the last decade.
The following is an excerpt of an article published by leading wine writer and Master of Wine Jancis Robinson last Friday in the Financial Times. “Southern Rhône Producers are worried about ever hotter summers,” she writes in her Southern Rhône 2012 report, “in very high temperatures the ripening process can simply stop.”
France’s wine officials are often infuriatingly diplomatic. Not so Michel Chapoutier, vice-president of the generic wine organisation Inter-Rhône and head of the eponymous wine producer. When presenting his company’s top 2012s in London last year, he was asked by the buyer for The Wine Society whether he really thought the future of Châteauneuf-du-Pape could lie with the Grenache grape when it makes such high-alcohol wines. Chapoutier impishly suggested the best course would be to allow producers to add water to their wines.
Pausing briefly to consider the signature grape of the northern Rhône, he volunteered: “The southern Rhône is too warm for Syrah. Of course, we don’t want to reduce the alcohol by physical means. If you use reverse osmosis to reduce the alcohol, you sacrifice some of the aromas. When you physically concentrate the grape must, you concentrate everything – including less desirable aspects. So how about simply adding back the water lost by evaporation? If you harvest on the basis of the ripeness of tannins in Grenache, you risk having wines at 15.5 or 16 per cent alcohol at least. We experimented and found that adding water did actually result in better wines.”
There was an audible gasp in the room full of wine professionals for this is, strictly, against the law.
“Renowned Rhône winemaker Michel Chapoutier’s single-vineyard Hermitages need decades of cellaring,” writes Megan Krigbaum, wine editor for Food & Wine and one of the leading wine writers in the U.S. today, “but his easygoing, screw-capped blend of Syrah and Grenache is sold ready to pour.”
Food & Wine, February, 2014
From the February 2014 issue of Wine & Spirits:
Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier 2011 Pyrenees Shiraz
This site within the Malakoff Vineyard, planted by Michel Chapoutier and Doug Fletcher (of Terlato Wines) in 1998, produces scant yields of one ton per acre. Planted on an east-facing slope of the Pyrenees, the vineyard produced a cool, umami-rich shiraz in 2011. More a food than a wine, this focuses on meaty, gamey scents of pork broth, mushrooms, tomato skin and peppery spice. It leaves the mouth feeling clean and bright, ready to enliven pigeon or partridge braised with wild mushrooms.
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.