In a nutshell: A superbly round and elegant biodynamic wine from the northern Rhône's most famous appellation.
The lowdown: The tiny south facing hillside appellation of Hermitage in the northern Rhône Valley sits among the most prestigious wine regions in the world. This is the home of Syrah (or Shiraz if you live upside down) and coupled with M. Chapoutier being a world renowned Rhone organic wine producer all leads onto this being a superlative wine. The smooth, round, elegant palate is full of concentrated red fruits, a delicate of hint of liquorice and soft spiciness. The gentle tannins ease you into the long finsh which highlights the ripe fruit character.
When to drink: Certainly a wine to partner with something quite opulent; fillet of venison in red wine sauce comes to mind.
Indisputably one of the Rhône's great names Chapoutier was originally established in 1808 and is based in the town of Tain l'Hermitage on the banks of the river itself. Today overall extent of the estate is huge, with vineyards along the whole length of the Rhône region together with substantial holdings in Roussillon. They are also in the Alsace, The Douro valley in Portugal and have 58 hectares in the Australian state of Victoria.
Whilst for much of the 20th century it's fair to say that their standing among Rhône valley producers had dipped somewhat things changed dramatically from 1990 when Michel Chapoutier took over from his father Max. Michel was one of the pioneers of biodynamic viticulture and his personal devotion to this principle combined with the ownership of some of the most favoured sites in the region has propelled the estate back to the front rank of Rhône producers. Soils on their estate never see artificial pesticides or herbicides and floral growth among the rows is considered essential in coaxing the best out of the vines. One small point of interest about their labels is that they are all printed in Braille and have been since the mid 1990s.
They currently own the largest biodynamic vineyard in Europe and produce some of the Rhône's most famous wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the south to Hermitage and Condrieu in the north. Under the energetic Michel Chapoutier they are constantly seeking out top quality vineyard sites and this is certainly one of the factors that put them at the forefront over recent decades.