Unveiling the 2023 Sélection Parcellaire Releases by Chapoutier

By | 11 April 2024

Chapoutier Sélections Parcellaires En Primeur 2023

Among Rhône wines, M Chapoutier reigns supreme. Rather than limiting themselves to their native region, Chapoutier has expanded their winemaking to Alsace, Roussillon, and Australia. In keeping with the ‘M’ tradition in their vineyard signage, Michel Chapoutier’s offspring, Maxime and Mathilde, both bear names starting with ‘M’. Mathilde just welcomed her first child, also an ‘M’ name bearer. Maxime and his partner, also expecting, now face the delightful anticipation of whether to preserve the initial ‘M’ in the name of their upcoming child.

The winemaking reins have now been passed on to 31-year-old Maxime Chapoutier. With his father gradually providing him more autonomy, Maxime highlights that the priority at Chapoutier is creating wines that truly represent the terroir. Maxime shares, “Our aspiration isn’t merely to replicate a Chapoutier wine, but to deliver the finest rendition of a place.” Their winemaking also embraces variations in seasons, recognising the distinct identity and narrative of each vintage.

The discussion begins with their Alsace operations, which have spanned 15 rewarding years thus far. Driven by an appreciation for whites from Alsace, Maxime points out, “We’re white wine producers first and foremost, even more so than red wine.”

‘We decided to settle down in Bernardvillé,’ says Maxime. It’s not far from Colmar and what attracted them here was a unique soil of blue schist. This is the only place in Alsace and indeed in France that you can find blue schist.

They have 8 hectares with Riesling and have started planting Pinot Noir. 2023 was the first vintage in their new winery. They make Riesling in a dry style: they believe that sugar can mask the expression of place. They vinify in 2000 litre foudres, and have also started working with concrete eggs. 30 years ago they invented these eggs with Nomblot, and even though they have ceased using them in the Rhône, they believe they’re interesting for Riesling.

M Chapoutier Schiefferkopf Lieu-Dit Buehl Riesling 2023 Alsace
From a 1.2 hectare vineyard planted on a strip of blue schist. Steeply sloping, facing south. Matthieu compares it with Méal in Hermitage, because even though it is at a lower altitude it has a good depth of soil, 40-50 cm. It has good water retention in the clay above the blue schist. This is taut and mineral with a pleasant touch of reduction. The palate has lovely dense citrus fruit with some mealy detail and texture, showing volume and fine spicy notes. Beautiful fruit here with nice precision as well as a lovely, inviting richness. It’s dry but the fruit gives an impression of sweetness. 95/100

M Chapoutier Schiefferkopf Lieu-Dit Berg Riesling 2023 Alsace
From the same blue schist as Buehl, higher altitude, 350 m. This is generous and broad with some peachy hints as well as ripe, crystalline citrus fruit. Lovely texture here with nice depth, and a fine, spicy framing. Has generosity, but also some chalky, mineral detail. Offers a lot of pleasure. 94/100

M Chapoutier Schiefferkopf Lieu-Dit Fels Riesling 2023 Alsace
0.8 ha single vineyard with shallow schist soils. Near Buehl yet ripens later. It is pebbly and brilliant, yet also has some honeyed depth. It has innate richness and depth, as well as some freshness. Ends brightly and quite mineral-rich. Different in style, yet comes with depth and intensity. 94/100.

The vineyards in Rhône have been biodynamic for the past three decades. Recently, they have begun working with bio-indicative plants, a new method to comprehend the vineyards. Their botanist visits twice a year. Their biodynamic vineyards contain up to 75 distinct plants. A vineyard they purchased recently had only 10 different plants. They find it crucial to cultivate a variety of plants.

They have been striving to reduce the amount of soil work. Maxime explains, “Too much soil work dries out the soil microlife and kills the soils.” They have started involving animals more and more. The animals roped in are sheep, and they have recently started experimenting with kun kun pigs, of which they have four. Maxime says, “They don’t gnaw the grass. When grass is nibbled, it perceives the attack and absorbs more water from the soil.” Maxime adds, “Using animals brings a positive atmosphere within the team. The pigs are like dogs now: you can call them and pet them.”

Maxime revealed that they try to retain some CO2 in the Rhône whites. He adds, “We prefer the wine to have a bit of fizziness. It helps to lengthen the finish slightly.”

M Chapoutier Saint-Joseph Les Granits Blanc 2023
Grown on granitic soils, these old Marsanne vines are located in the South of Tournon, and are 60 years old. The Saint-Joseph, spanning 1800 ha, can sometimes be difficult to dissect, but the Tournon hill presents a different case. Granite de Tournon soils are prevalent here, with a high level of crystalline quartz. The wine maturation involved significant lees work in demi muids. The result is a focused, somewhat potent blend with a drop of reduction, displaying fresh citrus and pear notes alongside mineral reductive detail and a touch of peach and apricot richness. The aftertaste has a hint of bitterness which adds vibrancy. The texture combines smoothness and subtle spiciness. Rated 94/100.

Hermitage, founded in the 1930s, has maintained its size of 136 hectares since its establishment. ‘The real richness of Hermitage is it being a fusion of all the various soils in the Rhone valley,’ states Matthieu, who considers the diversity of Hermitage a strong characteristic. Chapoutier controls 31 hectares of this land, thus marking them as the largest producers. They have dedicated 13 ha to the sole production of white wines, predominantly Marsanne.

M Chapoutier Ermitage Blanc De L’Orée 2023
Originating from the 3.5 ha Les Murets vineyard, this wine is a product of 60-70 year old Marsanne vines positioned at the extreme east of the appellation. It is broad, concentrated, and shines with crystalline citrus enriched with subtle notes of meal, pear, and peach. Hints of popcorn and honeysuckle complexity are also detectable, yet there’s a maintaining freshness throughout. The finish is very fine and detailed. Rated 95/100.

M Chapoutier Ermitage Blanc Le Méal 2023
Méal spans 3.5 hectares, 2 ha of which produces this blend from old Marsanne vines. This land is marked by alluvial deposits and large pebbles. The nose offers a slightly reductive note (some vinyl) along with fine hints of green (the signature tomato leaf fragrance often exhibited by this plot). The palate is textured and expansive, though currently dominated by the reductive characters. Flavours of pear and peach are infused with a slight bitter twist. This wine has the potential to be remarkable over time, promising an elevated rating. Currently rated 93/100.

M Chapoutier L’Ermite Ermitage Blanc 2023

0.5 ha plot with old Marsanne, with some vines over 100 years old, at the top of the hill of Hermitage. Shallow granitic soils. Complex nose with citrus, pear, spice, mealy notes and some minerals. The palate is fresh and quite delicate with fine mineral framing to the pure pear, white peach and citrus fruit. This has real delicacy, but doesn’t lack flavour. A beautifully elegant and potentially long-lived expression of this site. 95/100

Châteauneuf has 3 different soils – north is sandy, west is pebbles, and the eastern part is molasses, with a massive block of limestone under the soil. The eastern terroirs are better adapted to hydric stress. They have 30 hectares in the appellation.

M Chapoutier Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Grenade 2023

Sandy soils, not galets roulés. 1 hectare block. This is the first time it has become a sélection parcellaire: previously it went into Bernadine. 30% whole bunch. Fermented in concrete then matured in sandstone/ceramic vessels of 400 litres. Lovely freshness on the nose: bright red cherries with a sappy edge, and a touch of redcurrant. Pure and fresh on the palate with nice spicy detail under the very fine, pure, direct red fruits, with a touch of orange peel. This has a wonderful fruity quality with a real finesse and elegance, with a lovely silky texture. This is utterly beautiful. 96/100

M Chapoutier Châteauneuf-du-Pape Barbe Rac 2023

An old vineyard, 100% Grenache, on galets roulés. Very low yields of 10-15 hl/ha. A bit of whole bunch, aged in concrete. This is ripe and concentrated with a core of sweet, ripe, textured black cherry and raspberry fruit. Rich, slightly peppery, with some nice tannins. Lovely fruit here, showing richness and spicy complexity, but also some freshness. This is quite beautiful, in a ripe, classical style. 95/100

The red wines of northern Rhône have seen a change in the preparation process. Historically, the wines underwent lengthy extractions, but since 2015, the method has switched to shorter macerations lasting 3-4 weeks, as against the earlier 5-week process. In addition, the use of 1200-1800 litre foudres and small oak has been introduced.

M Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage Rouge Les Varonniers 2023
In the 1950s, the terrain for Crozes-Hermitages moved from hillside viticulture to the flatter lands, which proved easier to cultivate. The Varonniers is a lieu dit situated across both Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage, with a combined terrain of granitic and sedimentary soils. The resultant wine is bright and floral, with hints of pepper, sweet wild strawberry, meaty cherry fruit and fine green herbal notes. Lauded as elegant and beautiful, it received a score of 94/100.

M Chapoutier Cornas Lieu-Dit Saint-Pierre 2023
This wine comes from a southeast-facing lieu dit dominated by decomposed granite. The terrain is at the crest of the Cornas appellation. The vineyard area has seen changes in recent times, having evolved from an overly animalistic quality to a new depiction of Cornas. Planting for this selection massale, sourced from Hermitage, began in 2013. The wine is recognisable for its suppleness, defined by smooth tannins beneath a layer of sweet cherry and berry fruits. With its grainy texture and peppery edge, the wine is praised for its pure berry fruits and longevity, earning a score of 94/100.

M Chapoutier Côte-Rôtie Neve 2023
This wine originates from a 1.5 ha Syrah vineyard located on schist and mica soils. The planting, which commenced two decades ago, spans a very steep terraced site. There are three producers associated with this lieu dit, positioned right on the rock, and 20% new oak is used in the process. The wine displays fine expressions and structure with peppery hints, a touch of grip, and layers of cherry and raspberry fruit. With a core of ripe, sweet berry fruits, spicy framing and pure mineral notes, the wine is delightfully fine, scoring 96/100.

M Chapoutier Ermitage Rouge Les Greffieux 2023
Located at the foot of the hill on mixed terraces of pebbles and clay beneath Le Méal, this wine benefits from a higher concentration of clay that retains water well. Made with 10% whole bunch, the wine boasts a supple taste with ripe, sugary, liqueur-esque red cherry and berry fruits. Aromas of exotic garrigue, peach, and passionfruit give it a unique charm. It is generously ripe and portrays clear expressions with noticeable stony detail. Score: 94/100

M Chapoutier Le Méal Ermitage Rouge 2023
This wine is from a 0.6-hectare area on high terraces of pebbles and clay. Its attractive floral hue comes with a distinct freshness, cherry and raspberry fruits, and a liqueur-like richness. On taste, it is bright, and unexpectedly approachable with a vivid cherry and raspberry fruitiness. The freshness of the wine is well balanced with the fresh tannins and the slightly gripping finish. It has an affable character and is expected to develop interestingly. Score: 95/100

M Chapoutier Le Pavillon Ermitage Rouge 2023
Born from the cultivability of a 4-hectare plot in Les Bessards with 65-year-old Syrah on granite-rich soils. Its sweet, enticing berry fruit aroma is accented with some spice and pepper notes. The palate portrays an impressive concentration of freshness, and the texture is smooth with supple tannins, completing the taste profile with a cherry and raspberry fruit undercoil laced with liquorice. Its dynamic is layered and wide-ranging. Score: 95/100

M Chapoutier L’Ermite Ermitage Rouge 2023
Sourced from a 3-hectare plot at the hill’s top with vines over 80 years old on barren granitic soils. Its extraordinary concentration has a core of sweet, finely grained cherry and raspberry fruit embedded in a sleek texture facilitated by the fine tannins underneath the rich fruit. Impressively polished with great depth, it offers a promising evolution. Score: 95/100

The Roussillon shares many features with the Rhone, including rivers, the tramontane wind (similar to the Rhône’s Mistral wind), and diverse geological soil components. They also grow some of the same grape varieties. Their vineyards cover 80 hectares in Latour de France, and Lesquerde which is higher in altitude.

Domaine de Bila-Haut V.I.T 2023 Côtes du Roussillon Villages Latour de France
This vineyard, boasting 70-year-old vines and surrounded by garrigue scrubland, produces fragrantly aromatic cherry and raspberry notes. The freshness of the wine is complemented by subtle herbal hints. On the palate, it provides juicy bursts of tart cherry and raspberry flavours, intertwined with robust tannins. It is a very fresh, detailed wine with a vibrant character. Absolutely delightful! Score: 94/100

Domaine de Bila-Haut R.I. 2023 Côtes du Roussillon Villages Lesquerde
This north-facing plot, known as Fount de Bessou, consists of iron-rich granitic sands. The vineyard uses echalas training method for the 100% Syrah grapes grown at this higher altitude. The wine is generous but well-focused, with bright, vigorous notes of olive and pepper contributing to the vivid, floral black cherry taste. Well structured with great precision, this wine showcases concentrated fruit flavours balanced with freshness and intricate details – a stunning representation of Syrah. Score: 95/100

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