The name Chapoutier has been present in the Rhône Valley since 1808. Wine grower, wine maker and wine lover, Michel Chapoutier is one of France’s most dynamic wine producers, championing biodynamic viticulture and producing a consistent, impeccably high-quality range of wines from the prominent Northern and Southern Rhône Valley appellations.
Michel Chapoutier is one of the most highly regarded winemakers in France. Since taking over his family firm in 1990 at age 26, Michel Chapoutier has transformed the winery into the leading Rhône Valley producer. He combines the modern and the traditional: crusading for biodynamic winemaking, while expanding operations around the globe and experimenting with cutting edge winemaking techniques.
I grossly underestimated the 2000 Ermitage l’Ermite from barrel. This wine, which emerges from largely pre-phylloxera vines planted on the dome of Hermitage, adjacent to the chapel that is perched there so photogenically, possesses extraordinary finesse and elegance. It reveals notes of liquid minerals intermixed with kirsch liqueur and blackberries. While it never possesses the power and breadth of flavor of Le Meal or Le Pavillon, l’Ermite appears to be a hypothetical blend of Bordeaux’s Lafleur and Ausone as it always displays a certain austerity early in life. The extraordinary 2000 flirts with perfection. A provocative wine with great minerality, finesse, and delineation, it blew me away when I tasted it from bottle. Anticipated maturity: 2009-2035.
This uncompromising offering from a young genius is not meant for consumers who want something to drink immediately. It is the essence of bio-dynamically farmed vineyard sites cropped incredibly low, given extended fermentations with indigenous yeasts, and rarely touched until it goes into the bottle unfined and unfiltered. In most vintages, the wine is not even racked off its lees, which only adds to its natural style. This is truly a remarkable wine, but for most readers, patience is the operative rule as it needs a good 8-10 years to strut its stuff.
Once moribund, over the last 12 years, this firm has become one of the reference points for nearly all the Rhone Valley appellations since the brash yet immensely talented Michel Chapoutier took over in the late eighties. The single vineyard offerings are as good as Rhone Valley wines can be. Moreover, Chapoutier continues to upgrade the quality of those wines offered in more significant quantities than the 500 or so cases each of the single vineyard offerings. Wine Advocate #147 (Jun 2003) Robert Parker 99 points Drink 2009-2035 $US350.00
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