M. Chapoutier

Wall Street Journal profiles Michel Chapoutier

“Michel Chapoutier: Rhône Ranger”
—Will Lyons
Wall Street Journal
November 29, 2012

A ball of energy, time in [Michel Chapoutier’s] company is peppered with humor, snippets of his own philosophy, entertaining and unlikely revelations (“That was the time when I was drinking four bottles of Champagne a day”) and controversial, outspoken opinions. For Mr. Chapoutier, climate change will see an increase in rainfall, which in turn could dilute and divert the Gulf Stream. If this happens, he says, many regions in France, which have the same latitude as Montreal, could become considerably cooler; and it may, in his words, “end winegrowing
in Britain.”

Then there is Bordeaux, a region that, in the 2009 and 2010 vintages, increased its prices substantially, after two exceptional, high-quality years. Some would say it was reaping the benefits of its global appeal. Not Mr. Chapoutier. “The mistake of Bordeaux,” he says, “was to think only of China. In the wine industry there are people who love wine and there are people who love money more than wine. Of course, the goal of everyone is to earn a little more. But when you see a region giving huge allocations to a new market [to the detriment of old markets like Northern Europe and the U.K.] you are seeing the passion for money, not the wine.”

Consumers, he argues, are looking elsewhere and growing tired of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, two grapes he admits are great to work with. His Les Granits is a case in point. Made from the Marsanne grape variety, it is a white wine with low acidity that has a herbal, nutty character. “I am not obsessed by acidity in white wine,” he says, between sips. The overall feel is of a soft white wine that is delightfully easy to drink. He explains it isn’t the acidity that enables it to develop and age but the dry extract, the phenolics and minerals, the quantity of which, he says, is the key to white-wine making. That and every other French winemaker’s obsession, of course: terroir, by which he means the climate (which includes the microclimate and vintage) and the soil (slope and aspect of the site). Of course, the human touch is equally important, he smiles. “The importance of tradition and know-how.” And with that he stabs at his BlackBerry, transmitting another set of winemaking orders back to the cellar.

Tasting notes:

Les Granits
M. Chapoutier, Saint-Joseph, France

M. Chapoutier

M. Chapoutier, the pioneer: “Concrete eggs may be future of winemaking,” says Huffington Post

From The Huffington Post (July 2012).

When we think of wine, we imagine underground cellars of the stuff aging in wooden barrels. But that could change thanks to the growing popularity of “concrete eggs.”

The Drinks Business tells us that leading Chilean organic and biodynamic producer Emiliana is one of the latest outfits to begin using the egg-shaped concrete vats.

The company’s commercial director, Cristian Rodrigue, told the publication that he believes the method, which begins with fermentation in the eggs and finishes with a brief stay in traditional barrels, achieves a style that’s “softer with much more fruit.”

Although concrete has been used in winemaking since the 19th century, the new egg shape’s lack of dead corners provides better uniformity of the liquid’s composition and helps it maintain a more constant temperature. The process is also less reductive than stainless steel, which can produce wines that are crisp but lack the complexity and mouthfeel of traditional wines.

The Newcastle Herald reports that the first egg-shaped concrete fermentation vat was commissioned in 2001 by Michel Chapoutier, whose family’s winery traces its beginnings to the early 19th century. It was made by French vat manufacturer Marc Nomblot, whose company has made traditional concrete vats since 1922.

Chapoutier’s vats are 2.1 meters high, hold 600 liters of liquid and cost $6,000. Now that the vats are gaining popularity, however, Chapoutier believes he deserves compensation — despite never have signed anything in the way of patents:

According to The Newcastle Herald:

Marc Nomblot was ‘‘honest and a dreamer’’, and the wrangle over the egg began after he left the company last year and the Beaune-based business was bought by a larger corporation, the Bonna Sabla Group.Chapoutier said the egg fermentation vessel was the result two years of work by him and his team and he had never received ‘‘a single centime’’ from Nomblot.

Chapoutier has tried to reach an agreement with Bonna Sabla to no success, and the paper suggests a lawsuit is likely.