I believe that a wine is a reflection of its winemaker.
An elegant winemaker would produce elegant wines. A winemaker with a big personality will make wines of huge flavours. A female winemaker could add a feminine touch to her wines.
Such is the case of M. Chapoutier wines.
I first encountered M. Chapoutier wines in their press launch. Normally, a launch of a wine label would involve a dinner with wines to match each course, thus highlighting the wines.
It is most unusual for a wine label to show a video of a winemaker (not the wines) during an event.
Nicolas Schoutteten, the Export Director of the brand, opened the event for us with such an open, casual manner. Off the get-go, Nicolas reassured everyone that he would not dare bore us with the technical aspects.
The film that played over lunch and wine highlighted what I could only describe as the wildly flamboyant adventures (and misadventures) of Michel Chapoutier (the wine’s comically ingenious winemaker). He is a gentleman of seemingly opposing traits: Irreverent yet traditional, brash but elegantly French, seemingly rebellious but very learned, proud of Hermitage but equally delighted to have made wines in Australia.
These descriptions may not be what one would ordinarily think of when describing a winemaker, but I humbly propose that he may be on to something: Almost 30 of his labels have gotten over 100 points from both Robert Parker and Wine Spectator, and over 550 have been scored 90 points or higher.
Historically, the wine house has been around since 1879. Michel’s hand in making these legendary wines have made their house garner so much attention and accolades, but not without hardships brought about by family drama (Michel bought sole rights to the vineyards so he could exercise full control) and financial difficulties. Their Latin slogan, “Fac Et Spera” (“do and hope”) echoes the house’s resilience amidst all the challenges.
Today, Michel keeps passionately doing what he does best: making fantastic wines, advocating Hermitage and Australian wines, and promoting the absolute necessity of food and wine pairing.
For that particular afternoon, we had quite a number of wines to choose from. We started off with Chante-Alouette Blanc, a refreshing, clean, and elegant white made from Marsanne grapes. Chante is “song” in French, and Alouette is a French bird (like the French nursery rhyme).
We followed that with the Belleruche Blanc, a crisp, floral wine with great acidity and citrus notes. It’s simple, beautiful, and perfect to have on a warm, sunny day. The La Petite Ruche is a fool-proof food pairing white which paired well with our food that day (especially the spring rolls).
The reds were just as beautiful: The Belleruche Rouge is a half-Shiraz, half-Grenache delight, with peppery notes playing off perfectly with woody, leathery characteristics. The gorgeous Châteauneuf du Pape La Bernardine was splendidly flawless in texture and its old-world charm. I was also entertained by the English translation of the Latin label Occultum Lapidem (secret rock). The name philosophically means, “If you look in between the rocks, you will find the truth”.
I decided to seriously nurse the glass I had of the Moiner de la Sizeranne (and if it wasn’t too tacky, I would have run off with what was left over). This splendid, award-winning emblem of what Hermitage wine is all about is named after Maurice de la Sizeranne (born in the same area that the vineyards of M. Chapoutier are located). Sizeranne was the Frenchman whose contributions to Braille helped make significant advances to the way blind people interpret the written word. In honor of this man, most of the wine labels of M. Chapoutier are printed with Braille indentations.
The tasting was not complete without trying out M. Chapoutier’s take on Australian wines. Shays Flat is a tale of opposites: Taking to heart the notion of not making yet another Australian wine, this wine has the elegant texture of French wines with the juicy, fruity notes of a wine from down under. It’s neither big and robust nor subtle and refined. It truly found the halfway point of these two wine producing regions.
Special thanks to Premium Wine Exchange