Wednesday Wines – Episode 212 – A preview of a stunning pair of 2022 La Chapelles

Caroline, Matthew & Delphine

I was fortunate to taste 2023 Château La Lagune with Caroline and Delphine Frey at the Château back in April and after I had finished my tasting note (which you can read, free to view, on this website) they pulled a couple of rabbits out of the hat!  Not released for a couple of months, this is a genuine scoop, and I cannot commend this pair of subtly re-badged wines enough.  I have always been a huge fan of La Chapelle and Le Chevalier de Sterimbourg, and they are now united under one powerful banner in a vintage that is simply thrilling for both styles.

LA CHAPELLE 2022

2022 Hermitage, La Chapelle, Domaine de la Chapelle, Northern Rhône, France

100% Syrah: 14% alc: pH 3.81: Certified Organic since 2016: Vines planted 1955 – 1994: Average slope gradient 50%: Harvested 29 August – 13 September: 15% new French oak for 12 months.

There is a beautifully discreet perfume here with a lovely balance of pure, ripe Syrah notes and deeply innervating savoury spices.  The colour is glossy Tyrean purple, and the texture hints at viscosity but flows like liquid Mercury across the palate. In the past, La Chapelle has felt angry and restless in the glass, moody about having its slumber interrupted, but this glorious 2022 vintage appears to be the model of refinement, welcoming the attention with charm and openness.  2022 was a warm vintage, and at times, Caroline and her team were concerned about hydric stress as local oak trees dried out and hedgerow flora withered.  But vines protect themselves, and while all about looked parched, her La Chapelle vines were green and vigorous.  This is a testament to this great site, its noble soils, the passionate organic regime here and the elemental powers that have made this wine so famous.  Considering this beautiful wine’s deportment, one might compare its silhouette not to a Northern Rhône but a Côte de Nuits from Burgundy.  This is one of the most elegant, ethereal and hauntingly refreshing Syrah I have tasted, and with beguiling complexity and prodigious length, 2022 is another landmark vintage for this legendary label.  19+/20

STERIMBERG 2022

2022 Hermitage, La Chapelle le Chevalier de Sterimberg, Domaine de la Chapelle, Northern Rhône, France

87% Marsanne, 13% Roussanne: 14% alc: pH 3.39: Certified Organic since 2016: Vines planted 1956 – 1990: Average slope gradient 10%: Harvested 11 – 23 August: Fermentation and Maturation takes place in concrete eggs and a few demi-muids.

It is exciting to spot the label adjustment in this vintage, bringing this noble Chevalier alongside its red sibling.  In this regard, the trigonometry of the old Jaboulet portfolio has been consigned to the past.  Hermitage La Chapelle (Rouge) once sat atop the pile, with its loyal subjects keeping a discreet distance.  In 2022, the often thrilling white wine, Le Chevalier de Sterimbourg, has been granted a position alongside the revered red, and this elevation is wholly deserved.  The careful adjustments that Caroline has made over the years in growing and making this wine have all come together in this vintage.  Her aim has always been to elevate the importance of her incredibly important vineyards.  With this in mind, there is little oak involvement used any more, as Caroline endeavours to highlight the drama and direction borne from the soils.  The Roussanne and Marsanne grapes come from clay-limestone loess in Maison Blanche and Murets Plateaux, and the stony sloping hillsides of Rocoules and Murets, and it is these subtly different building blocks are only numbed and muddled with overzealous oak maquillage.  I have been watching this wine remove layer upon layer of artefact over the years, and in 2022, you will find yourself in the presence of unfettered purity and resonance.  Hints of honeysuckle and faint nectarine stone, with which peach skin, thyme, rosemary and mint make this the gentlest and most demure aromatherapeutic session imaginable.  The texture is sheer heaven – light and airy but powerfully long and rigid.  This is a postcode-accurate wine like no other Northern Rhône white I can think of, and I am confident it can only gather momentum and grace as it ages.  ‘Haunting’ and ‘elegant’ are words I am guilty of using too often when writing about noteworthy white wines. I will have to be more selective because this wine is the model for these descriptors in the future.  19/20

FIN