Log In / Join Now

M. Chapoutier, Part 3: The Reds

Nearly 20 Rhône Valley reds from Michel Chapoutier, including the stunning 2013 Ermitage L'Ermite
The weathered granite atop the hill of Hermitage is the source for Michael Chapoutier's L'Ermite bottlings.
Photo by: James Molesworth
The weathered granite atop the hill of Hermitage is the source for Michael Chapoutier's L'Ermite bottlings.

Posted: Dec 3, 2014 1:30pm ET

The final installment on my recent tasting with Michel Chapoutier focuses on his 2013 reds.

"Because 2013 is a cooler vintage, there's a graphite note right at the start and all the way through, instead of just at the end," said Chapoutier.

Proving his point, the very first wine, the 2013 Rasteau, has racy blueberry and raspberry fruit offset nicely by a long, graphite spine. The 2013 Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Bernardine has a nice plum pit note framing the core of red cherry and raspberry fruit, with notes of shiso leaf and iron gliding through the finish. It's lightly dusty in feel with lovely elegance.

The 2013 Crozes-Hermitage La Petite Ruche is racy and firm-edged, with bitter plum and cherry notes laced with a warm stone note. The 2013 Crozes-Hermitage Les Meysonniers has a tarry-edged core of plum and currant paste backed by a light cocoa edge on the finish. Fleshy and muscular feel overall, though there's also a solid bolt of iron on the mineral side. The 2013 St.-Joseph Deschants has white pepper and violet notes leading the way, with silky black and red cherry fruit behind them. The long, refined finish has a piercing sanguine note. The 2013 St.-Joseph Les Granilites marries a generous plum cake and currant confiture side with piercing iron and pepper notes that wind up driving everything through a pure and energetic finish.

The 2013 Côte-Rôtie Les Bécasses shows lovely briary energy, with pepper, bay and humus notes studding the core of blackberry and black currant confiture. There's nice intensity on the finish, with an iron note providing the counterpoint to the fruit. The 2013 Cornas Les Arènes is saturated with kirsch, pepper and sweet tapenade notes, all allied to a chalky spine that's well-buried. With great energy and cut through the finish, this has weight and precision. The 2013 Hermitage Monnier de la Sizeranne shows the vintage's mark—a serious bolt of graphite from the start, with notes of espresso, plum cake, black currant confiture and bittersweet cocoa notes all filling in.

The 2013 Crozes-Ermitage Les Varonniers has a gorgeous violet aroma that gives way to ganache, tar and warm paving stone notes, while the core of blackberry and plum paste waits in reserve. There's lots of bass here, but it has the tension and drive to stretch out fully after cellaring. The 2013 St.-Joseph Les Granits is a laser, with currant and plum sauce notes carried by a blazing iron spine and mouthwatering acidity. The seamless finish courses with energy. There's serious density and this too should cruise in the cellar. The 2013 St.-Joseph Le Clos takes a broader, more muscular approach, with fleshy plum and blackberry paste flavors backed by a ganache- and tar-filled finish that expands steadily. The 2013 Côte-Rôtie La Mordorée is very bright, almost high-toned, with red cherry, red currant and pomegranate notes leading the way, backed by a briar and green olive–edged finish. A nice tangy mineral note echoes as well.

Dipping back down to the Southern Rhône, the 2013 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Croix de Bois shows intense mint, cherry preserve and pain d'épices notes, with a remarkably silky feel despite its concentration and weight. There's a lovely echo of bergamot at the very end. The 2013 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Barbe Rac is richer and more velvety in feel, pulling in dark plum and black cherry fruit to marry with red cherry and raspberry notes, resulting in even more range, all while subtle camphor, smoldering charcoal and licorice snap notes fill in on the finish. It's a stunner. "Since there is no Syrah in these cuvées, what you see is not the effect of an increased Syrah percentage, but the concentration of the Grenache naturally after the coulure," said Chapoutier.

Returning to Chapoutier's home base, we built to a crescendo, starting with the 2013 Ermitage Les Greffieux, which tames this vineyard's usually overt loamy side, refining and melding it into the core of plum sauce and warm cherry preserve flavors. This delivers lots of bass but also yields some ground to elegance. The 2013 Ermitage Le Méal is layered with fig, boysenberry, black currant and black cherry fruit all carried by very brambly but integrated grip. A terrific graphite spine bolts the finish down. This has concentration like the 2010, but a different feel, with the length coming more from pure minerality than just tannic grip. The 2013 Ermitage Le Pavillon delivers its usual range of distinctive loganberry, red currant and blueberry paste flavors all carried by very brambly grip. It has lots of sage and cassis bush notes in the background and is as loaded as the Méal but with a different overall feel.

As with the whites, then there's the 2013 Ermitage L'Ermite, equally concentrated, but delivering yet another expression completely, showing unrivaled precision as iron-framed red and black currant, raspberry and plum fruit stretch out to the maximum, while dried star anise, Earl Grey tea and roasted apple wood notes line the finish. Seamless and extraordinarily long, this rivals the 2010, but in a more mineral-driven style. It's as good as Syrah, or any wine, can get.

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 365,000+ ratings.