Braille Labels

Michel Chapoutier pays homage to one of Hermitage’s most famous sons.

When it comes to the concept of terroir, trailblazing winemaker Michel Chapoutier will be the first to tell you that terroir is more than just a “unique combination of climate, subsoil, and exposure to the sun.” Terroir is also about people, he will tell you, “that’s one of the reasons my family and I live among our vineyards.”

While Michel might be one of Tain’s favorite sons, Maurice de la Sizeranne was one of its most famous long before Michel was born.

Born in Tain in 1857, Maurice lost his sight when he was nine years old and was educated at the Institut National des Jeunes Aveugles (National Institute for Blind Children). As an adult, he became a professor at the institute and one of France’s top philanthropists. Known for his interest in literature for the blind, he founded the Revue du Braille and perfected the system of abbreviated Braille widely used today in France. He also authored a number of books, including The Blind as Seen through Blind Eyes, first published in English in 1893. But in Tain, the Sizeranne family is also known for a small parcel of land it owns in the famed Heritage appellation, the eponymous lieu-dit (place name) Sizeranne, a growing site from which Chapoutier sources the fruit for one of its most famous wines, Monier de la Sizeranne.

In the early 1990s, after Michel had completed the biodynamic conversion of his family’s estate, he decided to pay homage to Maurice de la Sizeranne by printing labels for his top wines in Braille. After more than a year of research and development of a printing press designed expressly for this purpose, Michel released his first Braille label in 1996. For every subsequent vintage, all of his wines — including the legendary Hermitage “Monier de la Sizeranne” — have been labeled in Braille.

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