Michel Chapoutier

Michael Marquand
Michel Chapoutier

Michel Chapoutier is dynamic and irrepressible—his approach is damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. At age 24, he pulled aside his grandfather Marc, who owned 72 percent of the family wine company, M. Chapoutier, and said he could no longer work under the current manager, who happened to be his own father, Max. Michel would stay, but only if he was in charge. With the company struggling, Marc listened and handed control to the young man.

Chapoutier delivered. What was a tired estate on the Northern Rhône hill of Hermitage, known for fermenting its grapes with unripe stems and aging them in old chestnut casks, rapidly modernized and began to let its terroir speak clearly. By 2000, just 10 years later, Chapoutier had acquired additional vineyards and tripled production, and had also earned a reputation for quality matching that of neighbors E. Guigal and J.-L. Chave. Chapoutier also began bottling his Hermitage wines as single-vineyards, treating the hill like Burgundy. More recently he adopted biodynamics in all his vineyards.

Restless and looking to find great unknown terroirs, Chapoutier has aggressively expanded. He has a one-third ownership share of Cornas domaine Alain Voge. In France, he makes wine in Roussillon, Alsace and Champagne, and he has launched projects in Portugal and Australia. While his pace is exhausting, his energy inspires almost everyone he meets.

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