M. Chapoutier

Jancis Robinson chats with Michel Chapoutier, “Quixotic adopter of biodynamics”…

Quaffable and quotable

By Jancis Robinson
Published: May 27 2011 22:49 | Last updated: May 27 2011 22:49

Jancis’s 2010 Chapoutier picks

L’Ermite Ermitage Blanc
Le Méal Ermitage Rouge
Le Pavillon Ermitage Rouge
Les Greffieux Ermitage Rouge

Best Chapoutier buys

Barbe Rac Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge
Coteau de Chéry Condrieu
Les Granits St-Joseph Rouge and Blanc

Michel Chapoutier has been in sole charge of one of the three famous wine producers based at the foot of the hill of Hermitage since the late 1990s, when his brother Marc mysteriously faded from view to leave the much noisier Michel to speak for their investments in Australia, Roussillon and Alsace, as well as the Rhône valley.

Earlier this month, this quixotic early adopter of biodynamics gave the customary first sniff of his latest collection of individual vineyard bottlings, the so-called Sélections Parcellaires, to the British wine trade and press. Only a few thousand bottles of each of these wines are filled and British merchants are just starting to offer them, at between £130 and £1,000 per six-bottle case in bond.

He began by declaring, in his strangely soaring lilt, “What can I say? Winemakers are always liars. We said 2009 was amazing but 2010 is so good, we’re just trying not to say it in the same way.” The 2010 vintage in the Rhône was, he said, “really surprising. We all knew 2009 would be a vintage to produce powerful, sunny wines – like 2000, 1990 and 1995. But 2010 was cooler, with rain at good times. It has less power than 2009, more room for terroir expression.” And when Chapoutier racked the young wine, he was “more and more surprised … These are very mineral wines. You have to make an effort to discover them, but behind this there is complexity and they carry perfectly the terroir. If 2009 expressed the grape, 2010 expresses the soil.” (I omit his comparison of 2010s to a Doric column because I didn’t understand a word of it.)

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