2017 Maison M. Chapoutier Sélections Parcellaires Masterclass
Michel Chapoutier introduced the following wines and here is his official introductory blurb to the wines –
The Chapoutier family motto ‘Fac et Spera’ – do and hope – sums up their patient yet daring approach to winemaking. Michel Chapoutier’s ancestor Polydor Chapoutier first bought vines in the Rhône Valley in 1808, and today history and tradition abound at this vast estate that now stretches from Côte Rôtie in the north, to Luberon in the south. The M.Chapoutier vineyards in the very best sites of the Rhône represent the quintessence of the range. From Hermitage to Saint-Joseph, Condrieu to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, each parcel of land delivers the finest fruit expression of the appellation and is treated with rigorous biodynamic principles to ensure that good grapes become memorable wine.
So strong is Michel’s commitment to treat the terroir with respect that Chapoutier now owns the largest area of biodynamic vineyard in Europe. It is his personal conviction that “the complexity in a wine comes from the level of microbiological activity around the vine roots”. Soils on the Chapoutier estate are never touched by pesticides or herbicides, floral growth amongst the vines is essential, and the natural cycles of earth, sun and moon are also considered, as vines respond to these. A consistent approach is crucial. This is particularly noted in the top wines produced in limited quantity each year from outstanding individual vineyard sites; Sélections Parcellaires.
My thoughts on the wines –
Schieferskopf, Lieu-Dit Berg, Alsace – rather gentle and delicate and the flavour is very light and lemony with crisp minerality underpinning the juiciness. Overall, though, this is a soft and light wine. 17
Schieferskopf, Lieu-Dit Buehl, Alsace – much oilier and sweeter with very juicy and tropical fruit. It is a touch salty and talcy on the finish and this has a much longer finish than Berg. Still showing sweetness because the fermentation is not quite finished, this will end up dry, but still juicy. 17.5+
Schieferskopf, Lieu-Dit Fels, Alsace – much more delicacy here, added to more freshness and vivacity, this is a delicious wine with green apple and crunchy pear fruit. Not as juicy or as tropical as Buehl and more complex and rewarding, too. 18+
Bila-Haut, Collioure, Chrysopée, Roussillon – Made from 90% Grenache Gris and 10% Grenache Blanc. Very smart, tart and bitter fruit which balances the more lush honeysuckle notes. The flavours are very concentrated right now but it is clear to see that this is a complex and unusual wine. 17+
M. Chapoutier, Les Granits Blanc, Saint-Joseph, Northern Rhône – there is a lovely perfume here with granite underpinning the rather concentrated fruit and wild honey notes. Nice but rather simple and chunky. 17
M. Chapoutier, Le Méal Blanc, Ermitage, Northern Rhône– the colour is much deeper and the nose is terrific with more intensity of fruit and honey and there is some ginger and light cinnamon spice here, too. Fit and vibrant, this is a superb wine with medium-weight dimensions and plenty of energy. 18+
M. Chapoutier, De L’Orée Blanc, Ermitage, Northern Rhône – still buzzing with a touch of carbonic gas, which is protecting this wine, and this is useful because of the low sulphur régime here. Very characterful but stern and powerful (32 hl/ha) this lacks the charm of Le Méal, replacing the relaxed fruit with brawn. 17.5+
M. Chapoutier, L’Ermite Blanc, Ermitage, Northern Rhône – pungent and powerful, this is a blocky, dense, hard wine with rippling muscle and a heady finish. Not my style, but certainly shockingly impressive. 18++
M. Chapoutier, Croix de Bois, Châteauneuf-du-Pape – very low yields, 100% Grenache, this is a hyper-concentrated wine with bizarre floral notes and a milk chocolate feel. Unusual, ostentatious but not my style. 17+?
M. Chapoutier, Barbe Rac, Châteauneuf-du-Pape – with an insanely low yield of only 7hl/ha this is much more my style. Meaty, foresty and dry with beautiful garrigue notes, this is a lovely, pagan wine with firm tannins and excellent balance. 18+
M. Chapoutier, Les Varonniers, Crozes-Ermitage, Northern Rhône – with more coffee bean notes than pepper, this is a densely perfumed and structured wine, but it is not very complex. A little too square, this is a nice wine which will drink relatively soon. 17
M. Chapoutier, Les Granits Rouge, Saint-Joseph, Northern Rhône – very dense and powerful, this is a black wine with a saline and iodine tang and very active tannins. Lovely and layered, this is a superb wine. 18+
M. Chapoutier, Le Clos, Saint-Joseph, Northern Rhône – this is an oddly atypical wine with very dense fruit and a deep, black core. It is amazingly powerful and decadent with lovely sooty fruit and incredible length. 18.5+
M. Chapoutier, La Mordorée, Côte Rôtie (sic), Northern Rhône – blunt, dry, rather grainy and sour, this is a tough wine with little charm and perfume. It had a dried blood feel with soil and dried herb notes, too. I need more flesh and fruit. 17+
M. Chapoutier, Neve, Côte-Rôtie, Northern Rhône – more perfumed and more interesting with a red rose scent and a lovely, buoyant palate, this is a superbly lush wine with good length and lift on the finish. 18+
M. Chapoutier, Les Greffieux, Ermitage, Northern Rhône – rather mineral, tangy, lean and edgy, but mouth-watering and juicy, too, this is not the most complex wine but it is forward, enthusiastic and well made. 17.5
M. Chapoutier, Le Méal Rouge, Ermitage, Northern Rhône – richer and more fruit-dense, this is a more exotic Ermitage without the mineral grip of Les Greffieux, but it is a more exciting wine from a commercial point of view. Immediately enjoyable and ripe, this will also hold well for a long time thanks to the calibre of the tannins. 18+
M. Chapoutier, Le Pavillon, Ermitage, Northern Rhône – a step up in fruit and also oak and tannin, this is a backward wine and one which shows amazing, grainy, granite-soaked fruit and a very long finish. More gamey and with a feel of old vines and noble terroir. This wine lives up to its reputation but one must not be tempted to open this wine before eight years because it will need time to settle down. 18.5+
M. Chapoutier, L’Ermite Rouge, Ermitage, Northern Rhône – very deep and very noble, this is a huge wine but it shows uncommon freshness, too. The nose is meaty and bloody with power (22 hl/ha) and extract and the finish dries out completely parading serious tannins and menace. This will evolve into a very distinguished Syrah. 19++
Bila-Haut, r.í., Côtes du Roussillon Villages Lesquerde – ultra-ripe and very juicy, this is a cassis-drenched wine with amazingly attractive fruit and a slippery finish. 70% Syrah / 30% Grenache, thank goodness for the touches of mint and herb otherwise the fruit notes would be over the top. This is a very opulent Roussillon wine which will appeal to fans of very rich, ripe reds. 17
Bila-Haut, v.í.t., Côtes du Roussillon Villages Latour de France – 60% Grenache / 40% Syrah, this is the reverse bend of r.í. and I like it less. There is a little more leather and spice here in place of the fruit and it is a little more gamey and hot. 16.5
Tournon, Lady’s Lane Vineyard Shiraz, Heathcote, Victoria, Australia – ancient Cambrian soils make this a very juicy but very mineral wine. This is more balanced than many of the French wines in this tasting with superb build quality, spice and gentle mulberry fruit throughout. 17.5
Domaine Terlato and Chapoutier, Saddleback Shiraz, Pyrenees, Victoria, Australia – schist soils underpin this wine and the nose is stunning with evocative perfume and terrific pepper and spice. The bitterness and grip on the palate is dramatic and this supports the fruit perfectly. 18+
Domaine Terlato and Chapoutier, L-Block Shiraz, Pyrenees, Victoria, Australia – very intense, deep, dark and rather bloody and not dissimilar in shape and size to the Northern Rhône wines, this is a triumphant red with great potential. 18.5+
Notes on my scores –
As a wine taster and writer ,I prefer you to read my words rather than focus on my scores. This is why I rarely score wines unless I am writing a report or similar styles of article. I believe that scores, taken out of context of tasting notes, are largely meaningless. I try to describe my featured wines fully such that you can imagine the aroma, shape and flavour of each one. Scores don’t help with this. You will be aware that there are a few different scoring methods used in the global wine trade. Some of my wine writing colleagues have been tempted over to the dark side and they use the 100-point rating system. There are a few, usually older types, who cling to the venerable five-star rating – admittedly, I use this for the Great New Zealand Pinot Noir Classification. As you know, I favour the 20-point score. It’s how I was taught and it dovetails nicely with the way in which I judge wines, too. For those of you who are not familiar with the 20-point scoring system here is a table which translates it into the various other formats. The absence of a ‘+’ indicates a wine which is in balance and can be drunk relatively young thanks to its precocity and charm. One ‘+’ indicates a wine that will benefit from medium-term ageing (in accordance to the style of the wine), while two ‘++’ indicates a wine that should manage to make the long haul, softening and evolving as it goes. A ‘?’ means that there is an issue with the wine (something is not quite right or confusing) which is explained in the notes.
|20-point score||100-point score||medal||5 star|