Helen’s blog

Thoughts and tastings from Helen Savage, wine writer.

Chapoutier reds

Here are the rest of my tasting notes from my recent visit to Chapoutier’s cellar at Tain l’Hermitage. Saint Joseph has long been one of Chapoutier’s most successful appellations, so that’s where we began:

Saint Joseph, Deschants 2009 is very deep and purply, a big, juicy young red with classic black cherry fruit, but lot of structure. It has the balance to age and develop well over the next few years.

Bila-Haut, Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2008 ‘Occultum Lapidem’, a blend of equal parts Syrah, Grenache with 10% old Carignan grown on gneiss, schist, and some Kimmeridgian limestone. It is aged mostly in oak oak. A dark ruby, it has a lovely Christmas cake, dried fruits nose, with coffee and chocolate and is then soft, rich, savoury and decidedly mineral in the mouth.

Crozes Hermitages, les Meysonniers 2009, from Chapoutier’s own biodynamically-managed vineyards is very deeply coloured with an intense black cherry ripeness; a rich, powerful wine, but with great purity of fruit. It lacks a little complexity at the moment, but that may come. It’s very good.

Domaine Tournon (so named because it’s ‘across the water’) is the jokey name for Chapoutier’s Australian venture. The 2009 Shiraz from Shay’s Flat Vineyard, Pyrenees, Victoria, from red podzolic soils over iron-rich schist and quartz. It’s big, chewy, soft and ripe, with huge ripe tannins. The fruit has something of a Rhône-like black cherry character, but with a huge irony concentration. I would love to try it again in ten, or maybe twenty year’s time (if if still around and not completely ga-ga). I don’t find it a terribly forgiving mouthful right now – it sure ain’t a typical Aussie Shiraz.

Côte-Rôtie, Les Bécasses, 2007 brings me back to more familiar territory. A deep ruby, 100% Syrah (unusually) it’s perfumed, fine and spicily mineral, with a lovely purity of fruit, and rich, soft, yet finely-grained tannins. Clearly this shows that a dollop of Viognier isn’t strictly necessary to scent a decent Côte-Rôtie.

Hermitage La Sizeranne, 2007 is also deep and fine,  with good minerality and a lovely depth to its black,  herby intensely liquorice fruit, along with a slight hint of black olives.

Ermitage, Le Méal 2008 is as special as its reputation suggests. The bottle had been opened the previous day. Deep and ruby, it shows an exciting concentration of wild cherry fruit with  rose-like perfume and fine minerality. In the mouth it’s softly rich and ripe, almost seductive, but again elegant, perfumed, mineral and supported by fine-grained minerality. It’s evidence for me that the biggest vintages don’t always make the best wines.

Ermitage,  les Greffieux 2001, opened specially, was deep,but showed a little age. As it opened in the glass it showed a faboulous complexity of aromas and flavours – liquorice again, pickled walnuts (there’s something distinctly balsamic about it), iodine, coffee and very black fruits. The texture is as silky as one could wish for, and to seal it all there’s a fine, lingering minerality. In 2001 Michel Chapoutier used more new oak for this wine than he does now, but it was well-integrated and didn’t stand out.





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