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M Chapoutier

The Rise, and Rise,

of a

Maestro

 The Rhone is baking in the type of heat that swells grapes and saps visitors. I'm here for a visit and tasting at a vineyard and producer who I feel is something of a rock star among the viticulturists of the world.

 This is a name that conjures magic and gets one excited. It actually had me so excited that I felt a trip to the Hermitage overlooking Tain-l’Hermitage was in order beforehand, and apart from one of two pieces of dirt track that disgusted themselves as a desperately rough road, the view was worth the collection of torn nerves.

 The more I explore the landscape of this area, the more that I find the name Chapoutier is carved into everything, and I’ve been informed that until relatively recently the awesome Michel (it seems that to be head of this family one needs a Christian name that begins with an M (I’m out of luck on this one) was a name very few had heard of. He’s a man with ambition to spare and enough foresight to make a fortune teller worship at his altar.

 This is a man who seems to have been undefeated by anything, and if you read the blurb on their website he seems to relish the challenge of growing great wine in areas where it just shouldn’t be possible. 

 As I arrive at an unassuming building on a quiet street, I'm met by a wonderful representative of the organisation, and as we slowly walk towards the vineyards she patiently answers my questions. I do wonder if Chapoutier has grown into such a juggernaut that it is a difficult entity to control, and am assured that there is a constant application of principles that dictate the direction of the company.

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 I actually ask her if she feels that Michel is the nearest thing that France has to a viticultural rockstar, and after a smile plays on her lips she agrees that he approaches his wines with the creativity that is needed to produce a great song or album.

 I talk about a quotation one sees on the Chapoutier website about him falling in love ten times a day, and it makes me wonder what else might make the great man passionate. I'm assured that he's a man of many passions, despite wine being at the centre of his world, and it is this vitality that keeps him searching for ways to improve his wine world.

 The hills resemble a first attempt by nature to throw up a wine producing territory where it should be almost impossible to grow grapes and cultivate wine. Here, the results speak for themselves, and Michel Chapoutier is a man who has always seemed ready to

challenge, and be challenged by conditions, and his own need to go that one stage further.

 Ester and I continue our chat as I pick up on another quotation from the website that informs the reader that the single variety selections are like photography. I wonder aloud if a photograph is best appreciated if one has actually been to the place where the picture was taken.  As I ask her this I look around at a location that is beautiful. She tells me that it is obvious that wine always seems to taste better when tasted on location, but that the wines of Chapoutier are also great at evoking a sense of place and that they are very terroir driven.

 They have a gite that guests can rent and spend some time among the vines, getting to understand the marriage of wine and place, and I wonder how this is progressing. Ester informs me that it gets booked up very quickly.

 Ester and I continue to talk as we head back to a rather modest tasting room that hosts the great Chapoutier wines (and there are many). In the middle is the tasting bar and it’s here where wines are poured, tasted and the world seems to take on a relaxing hue.

A FEW TO FIND AND TRY

Haut Chamblard Saint Péray 2020

 On the nose I'm getting floral waves, expressive perfume and a nudge of oak that is friendly and not overwhelming.

 The taste is a very satisfying collection of lovely aromas of butter, cream and a juggle of green fruits that just grow and grow.

6 out of 7

Chante-Alouette Hermitage 2018 

 Stick your nose in the glass and it is kissed by pungent green fruit, cream, icing sugar, stony minerals and a nutty flavour that I'm placing near hazelnuts in origin.

 Taking a tasting swig, there's an acacia greeting that leads to a powerful collection of green fruit that's somewhere between a crisp apple, a conference pear and a piece of tarte aux pommes.

 

6 out of 7

Les Meysonniers

Crozes-Hermitage 2020

 Say hello to a wave of lovely dark fruit where blackberries and blueberries charge on forward. If that's not enough then they suddenly become covered in a creamy, smooth taste before heading back into black fruit country. It's so fresh one could almost say it was cheeky. At the end I'm left to ponder the violet flowers and pepper that have come to say hello. Another winner!

6 out of 7

Temenos

Cornas 2019

 This wine is absolutely delightful and I think that it's Chapoutier at their best. All the ingredients are crying out to be appreciated and these include violets, graphite, black cherries, blackcurrant and a swish of stalk that is only there to stir up your nose.

 As I tasted I was aware of an enticingly earthy flavour that was quite rewarding, especially accompanied by pepper. Wait a moment and black cherry and black plum can't hold back. This wine is so bold I wouldn't trust it on a date with my daughter, and so complex it could be a politician.

7 out of 7

Monier de la Sizeranne

Hermitage 2017

 Lift the glass and all I can say is, 'WOW'! This wine is so terroir-driven it could be a tour guide for the Rhone. My nose is getting a dark velvety fruit that is covered with cream and flows as satisfyingly as the river. Once again I'm getting a complex Chapoutier that adds chocolate and dark fruit before you take a sip. Once you do, there an addition of pepper, a little earth and a wine that is balanced, smooth and so rewarding.

7 out of 7

Tenel

Supra de Cassis

Crème de Cassis de Bourgogne

 I was given this little beauty as an addition and as fruit liqueurs go this could be one of my favourites. From the start this is a gorgeous amalgam of blackcurrant, cream and violet that was born to excite.

 It's complex on the nose, and the highly concentrated collection of fruit is waiting to take your senses hostage. It's a bold number with a hint of foliage and a taste of supreme confidence.

 This rich, attention-grabbing wine has to be tried. I particularly enjoyed the finish which gave me a walk in the woods and a light spray of pepper. Superb!

7 out of 7

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 The energy from Chapoutier is amazing, and his presence on the French wine scene is everywhere to see (shortly after leaving the Rhone area I was driving down the autoroute and about an hour or two south I passed right by another Chapoutier installation. If this man seems restless it's because his driven approach to making wine means it must be impossible for him to relax for even a few moments. While I love his wines I'd hate to play him at tennis or get him to sit still.

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 The Rhone is baking in the type of heat that swells grapes and saps visitors. I'm here for a visit and tasting at a vineyard and producer who I feel is something of a rock star among the viticulturists of the world.

This is a name that conjures magic and gets one excited. It actually had me so excited that I felt that a trip to the Hermitage overlooking Tain l’Hermitage was in order, and apart from one of two pieces of road that disgusted themselves as a dirt track, the view was worth the collection of fraid nerves.

The more I explore the landscape of this area, the more that I find the name Chapoutier is carved into everything, and I’ve been informed that until relitively recently, and the awesome Michel (it seems that to be head of this family one needs a Christian name that begins with an M (I’m out of luck on this one). He’s a man with ambition to spare and enough foresight to make a fortune teller worship at his alter.

This is a man who seems to have been undefeated by anything, and if you read the blurb on their website he seems to relish the challenge of growing great wine in areas where it just shouldn’t be possible.wine 

More background

We start with a pleasant stroll a few minutes until we are standing in one of the Chapoutier vineyards, discussing wine production and influences that play such a part in the classic wines of the Rhone. 

The hills resemble a first attempt by nature to produce a wine producing territory that should be almost impossible to grow grapes and cultivate wine. Here, the results speak for themselves and Michel Chapoutier is a man who has always seemed ready to challenge and be challenged by conditions and his own need to go that one stage further.

Ester and I chat away (put the answers to the questions). This conversation continued as we head back to a rather modest tasting room that collects the great Chapoutier wines (and there are many). In the middle is the tasting bar and it’s here where we continue our Q & A.

Answers to the questions, general observations (Esther is a cagey who seems to dodge my questions about preferred wines.

Wines

Haut Chamblard -Sait Perray (?) 2020