Posts Tagged ‘Chapoutier’

Rhone: syrah or shiraz

The red syrah grape dominates the north Rhone Valley, where Uncorked’s travellers often visit for a first occasion.

In Australia the same grape, known as shiraz, is the country’s most widely planted.

Well let’s not worry about that too much because Northern Rhone drinkers are enjoying syrah and styles completely apart from the domestic Australian drop. The reason is called terroir.

There is a clear definition of where to look for it.

Just drive south on the crowded A7 autoroute until reaching Ampuis, then turn your head right. There you’ll view the steep stone-terraced, single stake vines, growing in granite and clay across the river on the slopes of Cote Rotie (translated as hot hillside).

Large billboards displaying brands such as Guigal or Chapoutier or Vidal-Fleury are very stark advertisements.

The geography tells it all, yet the Rotie’s are on the elegant end for Rhone syrah.

There is much talk about Rotie reds containing viognier. They do, but that’s only the old vineyards where this white is interplanted with its red counterpart. Modern re-planted vineyards, say under 40 years, are now all staked with syrah vines.


Further down the A4, about 100 km at Tain l’Hermitage, this time on the near river side is the Hill of Hermitage, again terraced but planted to syrah with white marsanne, and a little, though rarely found, white roussanne.

Jaboulet Chevalier de Sterimberg Blanc

Jaboulet Aine Le Chevalier de Sterimberg Blanc 2011 (marsanne)

Sitting up on the Hermitage Hill (just 132 ha of green) is the Chapel of Chevalier de Sterimberg, a knight who led Holy Land crusades, now owned by Paul Jaboulet Aine (tasting Hermitage Blanc and La Petite Chapelle 2011).

Alongside are most extensive holdings of M Chapoutier, who once made just two wines by blending, but now since 1997 keeps each vineyard separate, white and red. It is a memorable Selections Parcellaires now renamed Fac & Spera collection (tasting Sizeranne 2012).

Across the river Delas Freres at Tournon who are situated in the larger Saint Joseph Appellation, draw grapes from  Domaine des Tourettes (tasting Hermitage 2012). The more northern-based Guigal have plantings also. The M Chapoutier range are diverse, exciting, mouth-smacking and very collectible.

Delas single vineyard Hermitage 2013 (syrah)

Delas single vineyard Domaine des Tourettes Hermitage 2013 (syrah)

At Sizeranne which is biodynamic, the syrah is meaty, yet drawn on tannin, though svelte on the finish. Aussie warm area shiraz is punchy, syrupy, sweeter-alcohol; these Hermitage wines are more linear, lighter body, 13% alcohol, taut and gently rich, though flavoured and subtle. Opposites to the domestic Oz palate shape and different.


Chapoutier Monier de la Sizeranne vineyard Hermitage 2012 (syrah)

Now for Cote-Rotie; the spiritual home of the Guigal family and the many wines produced, varying vine age, selectivity, rarity, price escalation and taste diversity.

The culmination being the three LaLaLa’s (Turque, Landonne, Mouline), which host Stephane Crozet says with a wry smile “sell out each year within the week”.

He served the white Cote-Rotie; (tasted ExVoto Blanc 2012), a swirling marsanne 95% roussanne 5% tied up with a defining long oak treatment, Cote-Rotie Brune and Blonde, two vineyards combined (tasted Cote Rotie 2010), the special Chateau Ampuis where the family oak factory is housed (tasted Chateau Ampuis 2011) then one of the revered single vineyards which can contain up to 12% viognier, depending on the season (tasted La Mouline 2012).

Guigal Cote-Rotie

Guigal Cote-Rotie Brune and Blonde vineyards 2011 (syrah)

Apart from Guigal’s dominance, for an absent owner, Chateauneuf-du-Pape maker Brunel de la Gardine makes excellent Rotie (tasted Cote Rotie 2013). And Jaboulet provided a neat Domaine des Picuelles (tasted Cote-Rotie 2012), all elegance. The Delas single vineyard Seigneur de Maugiron was excellent in silkiness, never confusing, just delicious in its line (tasted Cote-Rotie 2013).

And the only old and funky (looking like old Barossa also) was a Delas single vineyard, a rarer Cote-Rotie (tasting La Landonne 2006).

Why is Cote Rotie an amazingly elegant wine? I guess you can resolve to attend a visit such as this to see for yourselves; compare wine by wine, Hermitage versus Cote Rotie; the elegant and concentrated syrah versus equally concentrated yet silky finish.

Still syrah, still shiraz but never Aussie. The latter is far more butch than the Frenchmen. See for yourself some time, step outside the world of sweet fruit to that of the savoury. Voila.

Uncorked and Cultivated’s wine tourists visited the Northern Rhone makers Guigal, Chapoutier, Jaboulet and Delas during June 2016.

Viognier: is it Rhone

What portion of white wine drinkers enjoy viognier is a question I often ask. That is because so few viognier inbibers appear to be around, and even fewer Anglophones who pronounce its name as the French do.

In short does viognier have a problems with survival. Uncorked’s recent 2015 Wine and Food Tour of the Rhone Valley certainly identified a style shift in the viogniers tasted.

The whites of the Rhone are quite polarised: marsanne and roussanne in the north (though many do not grow roussanne because it is a curly producer); viognier around Condrieu, in the north also, then a big drop down to the southern Rhone for the six traditional varieties, grenache blanc, clairette, bourboulenc, ugni blanc, viognier, roussanne. Also there is an existing romance with the mid-Rhone marsanne and roussanne-producing appellation of Saint-Peray, solely white; each negociant appears to have some.

In general there is no more powerful white wine in the mouth than these devils-products of hot climate, massive natural skin tannins, powerful bitter-sweet, high ripeness fruit flavours that persist for many, many seconds and are ever-lingering.

Under this platform  M Chapoutier presents Condrieu Invitare 2014 (AUD 75); hardly recognisable as varietal viognier, slim, composed, no oak, no oil, no overt viognier fruit, just a fresh, tight, dare I say it, steely-tannin, no opulence, clearly a style change to engage more drinkers.

Mild young viognier

Mild young viognier

I would too. Big white Rhone is too much.

The Rostaing Condrieu La Bonnette 2013 (AUD 170) is made quite traditionally by Rene, and tasted in his modest cellar. It has pale colour, nice aromatics of no great intensity, no great opulence yet the tell-tale slippery feel of full ripeness viognier in the mouth. Drink this young, don’t keep it or it builds more in the bottle. Not a good idea.

Rene Rostaing-viognier artisan

Rene Rostaing-viognier artisan

Yves Cuilleron in Chavanay, just below Condrieu is a white Rhone specialist to me, and two tastings were conducted there this tour, both times underlining the excellent winemaking and viticulture pursued at this grower and negociant.

Cuilleron has ten hectares of terraced vines in Condrieu: La Petite Cote 2013 (AUD 46 375 ml) is a carefully tempered viognier, mild-coloured which tells you a lot (no over-development), is a one parcel blend aged in older barrels for 9 months, apricot nose, yes, a taut palate is even better with this wine, excellent.


Mild viognier

Mild viognier

Viogniers easily over-develop. Cuilleron Condrieu Vertage 2011 (AUD 130) shows the opposite, rich in the mouth, yes, but still composed yet from a year of leanness, a blend of parcels, 50% new oak, 50% old oak; a delightful drink with slipperiness, just ready for some oily fish. The 2013 is current release though Cuilleron showed 2011 at the cellar for demonstration.

Aging good viognier

Aging good viognier

Any winemaking that reins in the massive bitter-sour fruit which viognier tends to show at times is a positive for wine drinkers.

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