Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth is in France, visiting select domaines of the Northern Rhône Valley, tasting the 2012 vintage and more in Côte-Rôtie, Condrieu, Hermitage and Cornas.
This morning I tasted a range of wines from various Michel Chapoutier projects, including Pierre-Henry Morel and Ferraton Père & Fils. In the afternoon, I continued my tasting of M. Chapoutier wines.
This is the full lineup of 2012 M. Chapoutier Rhônes. For background on this estate you can reference my numerous previous blogs on my annual tasting here, starting with my notes from my 2012 visit.
The 2012 Côtes du Rhône Belleruche is an ideal introduction to the Southern Rhône, with a bright lavender note mixing with plum and cherry fruit and backed by a hint of warm paving stone and pepper. New to the U.S. market is the 2012 Côtes du Rhône Collection Bio, made from organically grown grapes, though the blend is the same as the Belleruche (70 Grenache with the rest Syrah). It has engaging plum skin and cherry notes, a lighter feel through the finish and an echo of tobacco. The 2012 Rasteau is a pure, driven, raspberry- and graphite-filled version with an excellently racy finish. The 2012 Gigondas is more restrained, with a perfumy edge to the bitter plum and blackberry coulis flavors. The 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Bernardine is very aromatic, with lots of cranberry bitters, blood orange and warm cherry preserve notes leading the way for a damson plum and a garrigue-filled core. A lightly stony edge drives the finish, which has nice cut. Another new addition is the 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Collection Bio, which is more open in feel, with plum, bay and pepper notes with more aromatic pepper and leather hints as well, giving it a slightly more mature feel than the La Bernardine.
The 2012 Crozes-Hermitage Petite Ruche is a lively, bright, floral-edged wine with vibrant pepper, red currant and sanguine notes—it's showing a high-pitched profile today. The 2012 Crozes-Hermitage Les Meysonniers is a touch fleshier, with more plum and cassis notes, while the floral edge lingers gently on the finish.
The 2012 St.-Joseph Deschants is a nice racy version, with a pronounced violet note and mouthwatering chalk spine allied to sappy red currant and damson plum fruit. The 2012 St.-Joseph Les Granilites is very energetic today, with a sappy feel to the plum, violet and iron notes. A lightly pebbly edge runs through the finish for added dimension and there's a nice bit of grip as well; this should cellar nicely over three to five years. The 2012 Cornas Les Arènes mirrors the trend at Ferraton, as it is the AOC where Chapoutier seems to have improved most dramatically in the last few vintages. It's deliciously briary in feel, with lots of bay, lavender and fig leaf notes backed by mouthwatering plum, blackberry and cassis notes and a long, sweet tapenade-fueled finish.
The 2012 Côte-Rôtie Les Bécasses is packed with fig, briar and tobacco leaf notes with sweet tapenade in the background. It's already very well-integrated but has superb acidity coursing through it that will carry it along for a decade. The 2012 Côte-Rôtie La Mordorée is remarkably lush today, with fig sauce, plum coulis and boysenberry pâte de fruit notes that are very primal. The pastis and iron notes are buried on the finish for now but the energy in this wine is palpable and it should be very impressive when it settles in after another decade.
The 2012 Crozes-Ermitage Les Varonniers has a saturated feel, with bitter plum and blackberry confiture notes backed by a vivid graphite spine. It's long and authoritative through the finish, with a gorgeous echo of Valrhona chocolate. The 2012 St.-Joseph Les Granits delivers a mini-Hermitage experience, with piercing iron and violet notes laid over intense fig, blackberry and plum fruit. The iron edge remerges through the finish, giving it a rigid spine. The 2012 St.-Joseph Le Clos is the second vintage for this wine, sourced from less than an acre on a granite slope at the south end of Tournon. The fruit had been going into the Dechants bottling but the parcel was rented previously. Recently purchased by Chapoutier, and with the new winery in Tain allowing for the micro-vinification needed to produce the approximately 200 cases, it is now its own bottling. The wine is intense, with deep plum and cassis flavors inlaid with violet, chalk and graphite The finish is chiseled and minerally, driving on beautifully. It could surpass the Les Granits in quality.
The 2012 Hermitage Monier de la Sizeranne is very plush, with lovely ganache, crushed plum and blackberry coulis flavors melded together and gliding through a loam-tinged finish. It flirts with classic-level quality. As usual, the 2012 Ermitage Les Greffieux shows bass, with loam, coffee and bittersweet cocoa the prominent notes, backed by a very solid core of plum and blackberry fruit and a muscular finish. The 2012 Ermitage Le Méal takes the bass and adds more energy and range, with extra boysenberry and raspberry fruit, hints of pastis and loganberry and a long, briary finish. The 2012 Ermitage Le Pavillon delivers its telltale loganberry notes, along with plum eau de vie, boysenberry and briar notes, with a lively tobacco-filled finish. The 2012 Ermitage L'Ermite delivers the sleekest, most minerally expression of the Ermitage cuvées, with a torrent of raspberry and blackberry fruit pinned to an iron spine and rippling with tension on the pastis-tinged finish. The latter quarter are on a level with the 2006 vintage of these wines, qualitatively, though they deliver more tannic punch than that vintage. They are once again among the elite wines of the entire Rhône Valley.
The 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Croix de Bois bursts with succulent boysenberry and raspberry pâte de fruit notes, offset nicely by a lively anise note. It's remarkably silky on the finish. The 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Barbe Rac is equally silky in feel, but slightly darker in its fruit profile, with plum and blackberry, while a distinct shiso leaf note weaves in and around from start to finish, lending a mouthwatering feel. It also has deceptively inlaid grip.
For the white lineup, the 2012 Lubéron White La Ciboise is a dynamite value (usually about $12 U.S. retail), delivering light, fresh green almond, chamomile, tarragon and green plum flavors and a stony, refreshing finish. The 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape White La Bernardine is a slightly crisp, very refreshing version, with chamomile, quinine, white peach, jicama and green plum notes and a racy, stone-tinged finish. Both could stand in for cool climate whites because of their breezy, unadorned feel and engaging acidity.
When will an importer realize what a superb value the 2012 Viognier Vin de Pays des Coteaux de l'Ardèche Domaine des Granges de Mirabel is? It would retail at around $12 and there are 5,000 cases of it. It overdelivers with a panoply of bitter almond, plantain, green plum and apricot flavors backed by a very pure, fresh finish. It's textbook varietal character with a very impressive level of complexity at its price point. The 2012 Condrieu Invitare is a deliciously pure chamomile, plantain, peach and lemon curd-filled version, with subtle but persistent acidity on the finish. The single-parcel selection 2012 Condrieu Coteau de Chery is a flattering, rounded wine with lemon curd, lemon chiffon, pineapple, star fruit and shortbread notes laced with a hint of toasted macadamia nut. It's showy, but has finely beaded acidity to keep it honest and balanced.
The 2012 Crozes-Hermitage White Petite Ruche is succulent, with a flattering edge to the green plum and orange blossom notes. It's a touch soft on the finish, with just a light hint of wet stone. The 2012 Crozes-Hermitage White Les Meysonniers has more range, with extra heather, blanched almond and white peach flavors and it stays racy through the finish, with hints of quinine and chartreuse.
The 2012 St.-Péray Les Tanneurs is very lively, with floral hints out front followed by brisk white peach and lemon zest notes. The finish is long and pure. The 2012 St.-Péray Hongrie is a noticeable step up though, in richness and depth, as extra tangerine, Key lime custard and heather honey notes fill in as well, backed by a long, lightly toasted finish.
The 2012 St.-Joseph White Deschants is fresh and unadorned in style, with lightly crunchy edged green plum, white peach and yellow apple fruit. The 2012 St.-Joseph White Les Granilites dials up the richness, adding brioche, toasted macadamia nut and dried pineapple notes. The 2012 St.-Joseph White Les Granits is marked by a combination of richness, freshness and purity, as lemon curd, star fruit and creamed white peach notes are stitched with quinine, chamomile and blanched almond notes. The finish ripples with finely beaded acidity and seamlessly integrated toast. It's a beautiful wine on par with and perhaps even slightly ahead of the '07 and '05 versions in terms of quality.
The 2012 Hermitage White Chante-Alouette is gorgeous, with toasted macadamia nut, brioche, lemon curd and meringue notes offset by a high-pitched honeysuckle hint. A salted butter note takes over on the finish, adding a mouthwatering feel. The 2012 Ermitage White de l'Orée pumps star fruit, meringue, blanched almond, white peach and quince notes out along a long, minerally spine that holds the finish wonderfully. The 2012 Ermitage White Le Méal is broader in feel, with lemon curd, shortbread, Brazil nut, dried pineapple and tangerine notes all still wrestling with each other. Rather backward today it will need some time to sort itself out. The 2012 Ermitage White L'Ermite is a stunner, with laserlike focus, a pronounced chamomile and quinine spine that keeps the core of white peach, blanched almond, honeysuckle, Meyer lemon zest and chartreuse notes tightly coiled for now. The finish is ridiculously long.
The 2012 Vin de Table de France Doux Coufis is a dessert-styled wine made from air-dried Viogner grapes sourced from the Ardeche estate vineyards that produce the Domaine des Granges de Mirabel. It delivers deliciously unctuous apricot, dried peach, tangerine and quince flavors with plenty of freshness to keep it from being tiring, while the finish lets light date and green fig hints glide through. Delicious.