Continuing my winery visits in France's Northern Rhône Valley, I crossed over from Cornas into Tain, catching up with Jacques Grange and Claire Darnaud at Delas. This winemaking team has taken Delas to new heights in recent vintages as they have shifted the philosophy here. After starting organic growing trials in 2013, Delas' vineyards are now nearly entirely converted. The pair has also made a style shift in the wines. The shift, toward freshness and elegance, fits perfectly with the fresh, pure fruit profile of the 2015 vintage. And work has finally begun on the old Jaboulet family home and vinification facility in the heart of Tain, which Delas purchased in 2013. The plan is to move only the higher-end red wines to the new facility in 2018.
Before tasting through Michel Chapoutier's top reds, we first went through his top white wines, which are a major component here. This is my last set of notes from my tasting of 2015s with Chapoutier and his maître de chai, Clément Bärtschi.
"In 2013 and 2014 we had high concentration and high acidity, a perfect combination for whites. In 2015 it was a little different, as we had to pick a little early to keep acidity, so it's not a classic white vintage," says Bärtschi.
After tasting through Michel Chapoutier's Ferraton Père & Fils, we continued my marathon tasting session at M. Chapoutier with the 2015 reds. Michel himself seems as enthused as ever with this vintage. And that's saying a lot for a man who has a high energy level to begin with.
Michel Chapoutier began working with Michel Ferraton's operation in 1998, eventually buying it outright in 2004. It's run separately from M. Chapoutier, however, and quality has steadily improved since Chapoutier took over. In the past few years, with Damien Brisset heading up the winemaking, quality has surged.
A visit at M. Chapoutier always takes a full day. On this visit I focused only on the 2015s from this Michel Chapoutier's Northern Rhône portfolio, saving the Southern Rhône and many of his other projects for another day. Even with that limitation, my notes from this visit will be broken up over a few installments this week to accommodate all the wines tasted. For more background on Chapoutier and the many wines being produced here, you can move back through my previous blog posts, starting with my December 2014 visit.
As with Laure Colombo, Chapoutier has also been poking around St.-Péray, one of the few areas left in the Northern Rhône with room to expand.
It's getting a little crowded in the Northern Rhône these days. Hermitage has long been locked up, and appellations such as Côte-Rôtie, Cornas and Condrieu are now nearly all planted as well. St.-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage provide some room for expansion. But the one place left with tantalizing growth possibility is St.-Péray. Laure Colombo is already on it.