Michel Chapoutier's Next Great Vintage

The 2015 vintage of Chapoutier reds from Hermitage, Côte-Rôtie and beyond will be remarkable
Michel Chapoutier's Next Great Vintage
Michel Chapoutier's top 2015 Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie reds will be stunning. (Jon Wyand)
Oct 12, 2016

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.

"Climatically speaking, it was an outstanding vintage, with rain at the right time and no excess of heat," says Chapoutier. "It was a lazy, easy vintage for vinegrowing, with everything happening at just the right time. The paradox is you have a warm vintage but the tannins feel as if they are from a fresh vintage. The level of acidity is high and the tannins are sweet. The last time we had this level of tartaric acid was 1996. There is none of the jammy signature that you see in other warm years like 2003. We don't see the power of the climate in the wines in 2015, which was a great surprise to me. But don't forget, we are in biodynamic farming, when others aren't. And that is the trend I see in all the vineyards we have—great acidity even in warm vintages. In the end, for me, 2015 is perhaps closest to 1983, another warm vintage where the terroir showed more than the climate."

As for the aging, Chapoutier's maître de chai thinks they will stretch it out a bit longer than usual. "The level of phenolics was so high in 2015, we had more potential for reduction during the élevage," noted Clément Bärtschi, who has worked with Chapoutier since 2010. "Normally we rack once, but this year we racked twice, and will also increase the élevage for most of the wines, to 18, 20, maybe 24 months."

The 2015 Crozes-Hermitage La Petite Ruche is a racy, unencumbered display of bitter cherry and chalk, with a violet echo at the end. The 2015 Crozes-Hermitage Les Meysonniers is a supple, enticing wine with sensual plum and blackberry preserve note underscored by a light graphite edge. It has sneaky acidity that really kicks in at the very end, adding length. The 2015 St.-Joseph Deschants, shows a sleek, racy feel, relying more on violet and lavender notes along with a core of cassis flavor. The 2015 St.-Joseph Les Granilites is fuller in feel, with more vivid anise, plum and blackberry fruit that picks up serious tarry grip through the finish.

The 2015 Côte-Rôtie Les Bécasses is very refined, with mouthwatering tobacco and bay leaf notes around the core of supple cherry and blackberry fruit. The long finish knits the herb and fruit sides together beautifully. The 2015 Cornas Les Arènes is lively, with bay and olive leading the core of crushed plum and blackberry fruit before reemerging on the finish. The 2015 Crozes-Ermitage Les Varonniers is packed with tar, black currant paste and fig bread notes along with a cocoa powder edge on the finish. It's a wine built on bass, but stays balanced.

The 2015 St.-Joseph Les Granits is tightly wound, with a strong iron note holding the core of blackberry and raspberry at bay, but there's terrific depth and drive here. The 2015 St.-Joseph Le Clos is fuller in feel, with rounder, fleshier blackberry and plum paste notes and a strong cocoa powder backdrop on the finish. The clos is only 500 meters north of the lieu-dit St.-Joseph, but has a slightly cooler exposure.

The 2015 Côte-Rôtie La Mordorée is packed with dark currant and fig fruit, underscored by bramble-edged tannins that bristle with energy, while the finish pulls in copious sweet tobacco and tapenade notes. Almost gutsy in feel, this will easily soak up an extended élevage.

The 2015 Hermitage Monier de la Sizeranne is very expressive, with loganberry and açai berry fruit bursting forth, backed by light brambly grip that gains depth and a tarry hint as it moves through the finish. The 2015 Ermitage Les Greffieux is remarkably fresh, with a mix of raspberry and blackberry fruit carried by brambly structure that really zip it up nicely on the finish. Light tobacco, pink peppercorn and warm stone notes hang in the background, but this is really built around its fruit.

The 2015 Ermitage Le Méal is ablaze with cassis and raspberry pate de fruit flavors that stream from start to finish, letting light anise, floral and iron notes peek in here and there. It has terrific cut through the finish with a long echo of warm stone.

The 2015 Ermitage Le Pavillon as usual brims with zesty raspberry, loganberry and blackberry fruit, though it's more typical brambly structure is particularly sweet and round in this vintage, while light bergamot and iron notes fill in on the finish. It's very refined for a Pavillon, with its energy more in reserve here than up front.

Finally, the 2015 Ermitage L'Ermite provides the distilled essence of cassis and raspberry fruit with flickers of anise and black tea along the edges before its riveting minerality strides in on the finish. This is long, lean muscle at its best. Remarkably expressive today, it's showing the result of cooler terroir in the warm vintage, which pulls its personality to the fore, a role reversal compared to the Pavillon this year, which is more withdrawn.

Up next: M. Chapoutier's 2015 vintage Hermitage and Condrieu whites.

You can follow James Molesworth on Twitter, at twitter.com/jmolesworth1, and Instagram, at instagram.com/jmolesworth1.

France Rhône Valley Northern Rhône Côte-Rôtie Red Wines Syrah / Shiraz Winery Intel

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