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Average critic rating : 94.0 points
Slightly more ripe, voluptuous and textured than the more Syrah-dominated l’Esquerda, the translucent purple-colored 2013 Cotes du Roussillon Villages Latour de France Occultum Lapidem comes from the schist soils around the village of Latour de France. A blend of 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 10% Carignan that was harvest on September 15 and aged all in concrete tanks, it’s a fabulous wine that offers elegant notes of red and black raspberries, roasted herbs, pepper, melted licorice and asphalt. These flow to a medium to full-bodied 2013 that has a full, layered mid-palate, beautiful fruit, fine tannin and a classically focused, dry finish. It continues to freshen up in the glass, has integrated acidity and lots of class. Buy this brilliant wine by the case and drink it over the coming decade.||These latest releases from Michel Chapoutier are all superb. At the lower price points, it’s hard to beat the Marius releases, and while fruit-forward and geared for early consumption, they’re far from simple fruit bombs and have real class. The Agly Brothers releases, which are a collaboration between Michel and Ron Laughton of Jasper Hill in Heathcote, Australia, seem to have hit another level of quality, with these 2013s and 2014s the best yet. Unfortunately, these are made in tiny quantities and are hard to find in the market. Nevertheless, even at $50, they remain solid values given the quality. As to the Bila Haut releases, these continue to be tweaked, and the team here is slowly reducing the amount of Carignan in the blends (the same is true for Agly Brothers releases). It’s yet to be determined if these latest releases are better than the stunning 2011s and 2012s, but they’re certainly as good, and I think the cooler nature of the vintage worked beautifully for these wine. It’s not in bottle yet, but I think the 2013 Lesquerde RI might be the greatest wine made from the region to date. The team here also loves their 2014s, and while I wasn't able to taste extensively from the vintage, these barrel samples were at the top of what I tasted. While the top releases are made in miniscule quantities, the lower-tier releases, particularly the L’Esquerda and Occultum Lapidem, should be readily available and allow readers to buy a bottle and taste for themselves before buying more. I think these are brilliant wines. eRobertParker.com.April, 2015
CHAPOUTIER: THE IMPORTANCE
Chapoutier has received more perfect 100 point scores from Robert Parker than any other winery, leading to Robert Parker saying that: “Michel Chapoutier's enthusiasm and commitment to exceptional, naturally made wines is a winemaking triumph, as well as a clear victory for all who care about the quality of wine.” Parker has also described Michel Chapoutier as “the world’s leading irreverent genius in winemaking and winemaking philosophy.” This has made Maison M. Chapoutier’s wines, alongside those of Etienne Guigal, some of the, if not the, most sought after wines from the Rhône Valley.
In 2016, Chapoutier was named the most admired French wine brand by Drinks International. Topping this annual list, put together by over 200 Masters of Wine, sommeliers, teachers and journalists, demonstrates the continuous improvement of quality, reflection of terroir and global appeal attained by this winery.
CHAPOUTIER: THE INSIGHT
Although they produce a large range of classic wines that are perfect for immediate drinking, it is their finest wines, the téte de cuvées, also known as Sélections Parcellaires or Single Vineyard Selections, which should be on every collector’s radars. These terroir-driven wines have the ability to age for several decades and hail from single plots of 50-100 year old vines in Côte-Rôtie (La Mordorée), Crozes-Hermitage (Les Varonniers), Hermitage or Ermitage as they call it (De l’Orée, L’Ermite, Le Méal, Le Pavillon, Les Greffieux and a sweet wine called Vin de Paille), Saint-Joseph (Le Clos and Les Granits) and Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Barbe Rac and Croix de Bois). These always high-scoring wines are the embodiment of terroir and are only produced in the hundreds of cases. So high is the demand for them that Chapoutier have started to release them En Primeur.
Due to Chapoutier’s attention to detail, the quality of their wine is extremely high even in lesser vintages. However, in exceptional vintages they truly excel. 2015, 2013 and 2010 were strong in both Northern and Southern Rhône, 2009, 2003 and 1999 offer excellent quality in the North as do 2007, 2001, 2000 and 1998 in the South. 1990, 1961 and 1947 have been described as legendary.
For those looking for something off-the-beaten-track, the hotly-tipped Bila-Haut wines from Roussillon demonstrate what a master of finding and exploiting terroir Michel Chapoutier is.
CHAPOUTIER: THE BACKGROUND
Maison M. Chapoutier is one of the undisputed elite of Rhône wine, if not the world. Based in Tain l’Hermitage, this winery and négociant business produces over seven million bottles of wine a year from the very southern extent of the Rhône Valley, through Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and Vacqueyras and up to the major appellations of the Northern Rhône. And it is here in the Northern Rhone that it makes its most famous wines; Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, Saint-Joseph, Condrieu and Côte-Rôtie.
Although this is a family-owned winery that is able to trace its roots within the region back through seven generations to 1808, it is not stuck in the mire of tradition and history. As its motto: “fac et spera” - which translates as do and hope - suggests, the focus is very much on innovation, modernity and the unorthodox.
Michel Chapoutier took control of the family business in 1988 and the quality of the wines produced skyrocketed. He has pushed his preference for single varietal wines, championed Rhône whites, introduced complete destemming before fermentation, converted all of the estate’s vineyards to biodynamic farming, reduced manipulation in the winery by avoiding acidification, filtration, fining and over-oaking and introduced braille labelling.
Not satisfied with that, Michel’s penchant for Champagne has driven him to produce one in collaboration with Devaux. This incredibly prolific man and team also own estates in Alsace, Roussillon, Australia and Portugal, as well as collaborating with French multiple Michelin star chefs Anne-Sophie Pic in Saint-Péray and the surrounding area (see Pic & Chapoutier) and Yannick Alléno in Saint-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage, and Michel has even expressed a desire to make wine in the UK.
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