Michel Chapoutier, one of the Rhône's most dynamic producers (who also has an estate in Roussillon and joint ventures in Australia and Portugal), has been on a shopping spree. Chapoutier has purchased vineyards that expand his holdings in the Southern Rhône, while also stretching into Champagne and Alsace.
Chapoutier has completed the purchase of nearly 20 acres of vines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The vines are located in the Pignan, Bois Dauphin and Barbe d'Asne lieux-dits. His M. Chapoutier estate and négociant business is based in Tain l'Hermitage and is among the most famous producers of Hermitage cuvées.
Chapoutier said he purchased the vineyards at a considerable premium over the typical going rate of approximately 360,000 euros per hectare (1 hectare is equivalent to approximately 2.47 acres) in order to fend off competition. The deal was approved by SAFER, the French governmental body that oversees vineyard transactions, in part because Chapoutier agreed to absorb a bankrupt corporate entity and dilapidated winery facility with the purchase. The new estate will be named Vignoble Pierre-Henri Morel and be run by Morel, who is M. Chapoutier's commercial director.
Chapoutier is also teaming with the Champagne house A. Devaux. Chapoutier, along with a few friends, has purchased 1.2 acres of vines in Champagne that will not be connected with his Rhône business. Chapoutier plans to produce a small amount of vintage blanc de blancs in a joint venture with A. Devaux. "Just 6,000 or 7,000 bottles at most," he said.
In addition to the confirmed deals, Chapoutier said he is close to finalizing the purchase of vineyard land in Alsace. The vineyards could total somewhere between 17 and 29 acres of vines, planted to Riesling.
"I think Riesling is one of the greatest white grapes in the world, and I have always wanted to make a Riesling," said Chapoutier. "I like it when it is dry, minerally, with angles."
Chapoutier will work with fellow biodynamic vigneron Marc Kreydenweiss on the wines, which are aimed for commercial release in a few years.
Chapoutier also noted that he was looking to expand his holding in Roussillon for his Domaine de Bila-Haut, as well as possibly purchasing vineyards in Beaujolais.