Masterclass – Michel Chapoutier

Chapoutier
The speaker: Michel Chapoutier

Overview:

A crowd of a hundred or so gathered to listen to one of the world’s most renowned biodynamic producers, Michel Chapoutier, talk through a flight of 12 wines which, in his own words, were ‘not necessarily the best wines, but the best pictures of the terroir.’

Right from the start, you get a very clear picture of the man regarded as one of the most influential winemakers in the Rhone Valley. No boardroom suit. Instead, jeans and a casual checked shirt reflected the open-handed nature of the person introduced to the crowd as Michel Chapoutier – vine grower, winemaker and wine lover.

M. Chapoutier and his wines did not disappoint. Speaking at great length, Michel charmed the audience, outlaying the unique and rigorous principles he employs both in his vast empire of vineyards and later in the winery.

‘Fertilisers increase yields by increasing water take-up, but do nothing for the dry extract of the grapes. Minerality that should give wine its unique character.’ he said.

His presentation was littered with analogies. ‘We need 7-8 hours sleeping time a day,’ he said. ‘But with medicine we can get away with just 4. It might be more efficient, but it doesn’t make us any healthier in the long term. It’s the same with grapes.’

‘We bottle with carbonic gas, rather than sulphur,’ he explained. ‘It’s more natural and it masks the alcohol.’

Michel speaks in a captivatingly dialectic manner. His sentences are threads of intelligent thought, quickly segued and always delivered with animated aplomb. One or two looked puzzled, most looked fascinated.

‘There are three things that give power to a wine. Higher levels of clay, iron and light. We never change the vintage by acidification or chaptalisation. The wines we have tasted are the exact pictures of what the climate and soil gave to us.’

Such precision of ideal even stretched as far as the masterclass glass. The masterclass team were under strict instruction – no pourers or drip stops were to be used on any of the wines and they were all to be served at very particular temperatures, and thus should not be pre-poured.

Presenter Quote

‘Fruit is to wine as disco is to music.’ – Michel Chapoutier [For a full explanation – watch the video below]

Reader Question

Question: ‘We’re tasting a flight of wines exclusively from 2006. What was it like as vintage, weather-wise?’

Answer: 'It was a vintage of patience. The days were warm and dry. The nights were cool. The conditions were very good, but we had to wait. 2006 is definitely a white vintage.’

Wines Presented

  • Hermitage Chante-Alouette 2006

  • Saint-Joseph Les Granits white 2006

  • Ermitage De L’Oree 2006

  • Ermitage Le Meal white 2006

  • Chateauneuf-du-Pape Croix de Bois 2006

  • Chateauneuf-du-Pape Barbe Rac 2006

  • Bila-Haut, Roussillon Villages, Latour de France, V.I.T. 2006

  • Saint Joseph Les Granits red 2006

  • Cote Rotie, La Mordoree 2006

  • Hermitage Monier de la Sizeranne 2006

  • Ermitage Le Meal red 2006

  • Ermitage Le Pavillon 2006