The Buyer
Michel Chapoutier: up close and personal at en primeurs 2021

Michel Chapoutier: up close and personal at en primeurs 2021

Michel Chapoutier was in town last week with his range of 2021 en primeur wines. The consummate showman, Chapoutier loves to hold court, drink a bottle of Tatty Comtes and shoot from the hip with his sometimes outlandish observations. Roger Jones had a prime seat at the comprehensive tasting, masterclass and then lunch with the man himself and a nice selection of library wines.

Roger Jones
17th October 2022by Roger Jones
posted in Tasting: Wine ,

The M Chapouiter 2021 Sélections Parcellaires En Primeur wines feature seven white wines and six whites while a mix of library wines and new releases accompanied lunch.

Michel Chapoutier: determined and passionate. October 11, London’s Corinthia hotel

It would be something of an understatement to observe that Michel Chapoutier is a pretty determined person. “Do not be a follower, be a leader!” he exclaimed, when he was talking hypothetically about making wines in the UK… if he was to do that he would choose to plant Swiss Chasselas vines in the Isles of Scilly. The reason?… “Granite”.

Likewise when, in 1989, he persuaded his grandfather to sell him the Chapoutier business rather than pass it on to his father.

Since then Chapoutier has forged ahead buying and planting not only in the Rhône but at Schieferkopf in Alsace, Domaine de Bila-Haut in Roussillon, Dominio del Soto in Ribera del Duero, Château des Ferrages in Sainte-Victoire, Dos Lusiadas in the Douro, Domaine Roc Folassière in Gard, Domain Tournon in the Pyrenees, Australia and numerous other locations across France.

On stage to present his Sélections Parcellaires En Primeur 2021, which will be released in the second quarter of 2024, Chapoutier had no qualms about opening a bottle of Taittinger Comtes 2012 for himself whilst we tasted through his wines.

Chapoutier is a passionate man, and a huge believer in biodynamics, the balance of wine, the importance of carbonic gas and how it helps to ‘wake up’ the wine and the importance of saline or salt in wine. He often refers to the essence of winemaking as Michelin Stars – at a one star level the winemaking is is not quite good enough, not quite balanced, but when you get to two stars the chef has the balance pretty perfect, and this is what he wants to achieve in his wines; (I did not mention, incidentally that, as a chef, I had only ever achieved just the one star over 15 years!)

Although we were tasting the M Chapoutier 2021 wines (and he the 2012 Comtes), he gave a small insight into the 2022 harvest. He revealed that, despite the heat, his biodynamic practices and the age of the vines have both helped to control the alcohol, balance and the potential jamminess of the wines. The 2020, 2021 and 2022 vintages will deliver different spectrums and styles, he said, but quality would still be at the fore.

So how are the M Chapoutier 2021 white wines?

Here we go then (all prices are RRP per 6 bottles IBD)

Domaine Schieferkopff is a small vineyard in Alsace, some 6-7 hectares in size, bought at 2am in the morning after a big dinner with three friends. It has one of the highest altitudes in Alsace, on blue schist. Chapoutier suggested waiting 10 years for these Alsace trio, although there is definitely scope to drink them earlier.

Schieferkopff Riesling Buehl IBD RRP £120

Single vineyard blue schist strip/south-facing. Bright, fresh with some tropical fruit, lemon curd with spice, cream and hints of perfect jasmine tea. Textured, layered, fruit-forward, linear, minerals, saline – focused with a tingly finish

Schieferkopff Riesling Berg IBD RRP £120

Same vineyard strip as above; toasty, brioche, croissant, with intense citrus, lemon curd, lime acidity, full-flavoured, white flowers with a lingering long aftertaste. More fruit, acacia, buttery and toasty.

Schieferkopff Riesling Fels IBD RRP £130

South-east facing single vineyard of shallow schist, that basks in the morning sun. Seamless, silky with gentle aromatics, some pineapple with a dust of salt, yellow peaches and nectarines, fresh, fruit-forward, with a textured finish. Will age beautifully for decades. Has layers of textures and compounds; the aromatics are fresh, focused and leaves a spritz of peeled, ripe stone fruit – great precision and freshness.

Domaine de Bila-Haut Chrysopée Blanc IBD RRP £185

90% Grenache Gris & 10% Grenache Blanc from a very old terraced vineyard on schist, AOP Collioure, Roussillon.

Elderflower, herbaceous, Grenache Gris at the fore with cedar, twigs, elderberries, gripping on the palate, fresh acidity, bruised stone fruit, orange blossom, delicious aftertaste with little darts of flavours dancing on the palate – hints of saline giving a refreshing balance and some tannin. “I always want to keep a high level of carbonic gas to keep freshness and the gas helps bring out the salt,” Chapoutier says, “to keep carbonic gas in white wine, no pumping the barrel, don’t waste the carbonic gas and it gives more complexity.”

Hermitage Le Méal Blanc IBD RRP £785

Marsanne 100%, some 50+ year old vines. Big aromatic nose, buttery, acacia honey, quince, herbaceous, rosemary, savoury, creamy on the mid-palate with some chalk, saline, custard apples; clean and pure on the finish, evolves beautifully, tomato essence, leaves, rich and full with creamy spices, poached pear William with sauce anglaise.

Hermitage De l’Orée Blanc IBD RRP £830

100% Marsanne from 60/70 year old vines. Stunning nose, gentle aromas, spiced, toasty bread (not brioche), caraway, aniseed, rosemary, ripe fruits, fresh and gripping acidity. The freshness is incredible here – again with a saline backbone – but on the finish there is a lovely bright, fresh purity and lingering freshness on the finish. Pear William at the end, stunning.

Hermitage L’Ermite Blanc IBD RRP £1,925

Bought in 1991, a 0.5 hectare site on top of Hermitage hill, that has poor granitic, shallow soils, with 100-year-old, low-yielding vines. You can find hints of tangerine with a marked age nuance from the old vines, gentle, clean, precise flavours on the mid-palate – wonderful purity – luxurious, gentle perfume, immense, fresh fruit and saline balance, with rose buds and perfumed violets in the glass at the end. This blew me away, wow! what a wine.

How are the M Chapoutier 2021 red wines?

CNDP Croix de Bois Rouge IBD RRP £305

The vineyard is covered in pebbles over sandy red clay. Crushed raspberries, raspberry ripple ice cream on the nose; lovely elegance, fresh and forward, with orange zest, clementine, dusty and some meat/bacon in the background, cranberry on the finish, blackberry crumble essence.

Saint-Joseph Le Clos Rouge IBD RRP £500

Grown on coarse black granite, full of dark fruits, brambles, hedgerow, spices, clean and focused. Blueberries on the finish, some tannin, focused – there is a textured, perfumed finish, with a dark brooding feel (inky but pure) with a pencil sharpness keeping it focused.

Côte-Rôtie Neve Rouge IBD RRP £585

When warm, this vineyard is known as the “roasted vineyard” of Côte-Rôti, planted on schist and mica soils. Spicy, floral and garrigue notes. Beautiful texture, clean fresh aromatics, so well balanced, easy to drink even now, gentle pure bilberries, fresh and silky, violets, some matchstick, black olive, bacon. The pure finish is so clean, leaving hints of aged, organic charcoal, tiny red berries with some gentle spice… Wow what a wine!

Hermitage Les Greffieux Rouge IBD RRP £555

Located at the foot of Hermitage Hill, on a glacial, alluvial deposit terrace, with shingles and clay, the fruit coming from 50+ year old vines. Dark, brooding, bonfire, bacon, meaty, but enveloped with a purity of fruit, dark blue fruit, blueberries, bilberries, tayberries, cocoa, tobacco, mocha, but all restrained and elegant. On the mid-palate the juicy fruit is full of freshness, bright acidity and focused, linear, meaty, aged leather and sweet beetroot.

Hermitage Le Pavillon Rouge IBD RRP £1,195

The esteemed four hectare “Les Bessards” vineyard with 65 year old Syrah, sat at the top of the Hermitage Hill. Deep inky, smoky aromas, gripping on the mid-palate, deep, dark, beautiful fruit – a medley of blackberries, dark Scottish raspberries, cranberry, smoky, cured ham, a touch of tannin. Dark, lingering, exceptionally fine wine with graphite, salt, spice, hearth and, after a while, luscious, dark red fruit.

Hermitage L’Ermite Rouge IBD RRP £1,330

The jewel in the Chapoutier crown from a three-hectare plot at the top of Hermitage Hill, with vines over 80 years old and 10% of stems being used in the blend. Pepper and spice, dark-fruited and inky, the stems come through, smoky, gripping, polished tannins, big (and one of the first reds that is hard to drink right now), peppery spice, dark fruit purée as opposed to berries, intense. The perfume and intensity opens up in the glass, the tannins are at the same time powerful and velvety. Smoky and peppery overtones come from Syrah expressing itself on the granitic soil. According to the vintage, the wine can be kept from 30 to 60 years, indeed from 50 to 75 years I would say.

All of the whites are bottled, the reds are not yet bottled.

Our time now to have a glass of Champagne and it was Champagne Taittinger Prelude NV from magnum. Beautifully aged, and drinking so well, luscious and full-flavoured, berries coming through with a lovely richness, creamy, focused, and with wonderful purity – hints of brioche, with a toasty elegance, crisp lemon/lime citrus curd, there is a refined elegance here, crying out for canapés, with a beautiful mouthfeel on the finish

Lunch wines:

Hermitage Chante-Alouette 2018

Bright citrus, creamy, lingering, citrus curd, beeswax, acacia, some hay with a lovely texture and feel – elegant and pretty seamless.

Hermitage De L’Oree 2019

Seductive, lingering yellow flowers, herbaceous, creamy, lingering texture, Portuguese custard tart, this was matched by a fresh salmon dish with pickled and dried cucumber, fresh and clean, allowing the wine to shine.

Hermitage Les Greffieux 2008

Dark-fruited, with saddle leather smoothness, delicate and refined, this wine has aged beautifully, dark-fruited, cassis, sweet fruit on the mid-palate, quite exceptional and very classy.

Saint-Joseph Le Clos 2019

Wow! Dark and incredibly deep leather tannin, with blueberries in the background… the purity is stunning, clean, focused and crisp, fresh, brilliant, velvety, silky, this goes on and on and perfect with the Lake District Beef Wellington.

What a complete pleasure to be in the company of Michel Chapoutier, his masterclass was a marvel, and then it was fabulous to enjoy some aged wines over lunch in his company.

The wines of Michel Chapoutier are imported and sold in the UK by Hatch Mansfield which is a supplier partner of The Buyer. To discover more about Hatch Mansfield click here.