Members of the Chapoutier family have been working in the Rhône Valley since 1808. A distant ancestor, Polydor Chapoutier, was the first to buy vines here, shifting from being a simple grape grower to making and trading his own wine. The pioneering spirit was already part of the family tradition.
Seven generations later we find Michel Chapoutier, forty something, with a real passion of the expression of soils, at the head of this exceptionnal vineyard firmly anchored in history and traditions.
Today maison M. Chapoutier continues to further its legacy as a benchmark for the industry in general: the biodynamic model created by Michel in the 1990s has become the standard by which the entire biodynamic industry is measured in contemporary Europe.
Most thought twenty-six-year-old Michel daring when he converted his family’s legendary estate to new methods of growing and winemaking. Today, his peers continue to view him as an innovator, leader, forward-thinker, and risk-taker who changed the course of French winemaking for the better.
This young, determined man, opting for breakway solutions, has succeeded in combining the past with daring and creativity.
From this union stems the wealth and generosity of maison M. CHAPOUTIER.
Michel Chapoutier started his love-affair with wine at 26. A self-taught enthusiast and a curious visionary he brings to the winery a new approach and a powerful ambition. An idea of wine that soon became all-embracing. “Wine-grower, wine-maker and wine lover”. The choices he made marked a break with past principles and prejudices. A question of audacity and conviction, convictions he shares with his young team. An essential, emblematic choice too: he decided to change the taste associated with Maison M. Chapoutier, to avoid cultivating “a signature taste”, focusing instead on bringing out the difference and specific features of each terroir.
From his childhood Michel has retained fragrances and smells from the terroirs that fuelled his inspiration and passion. Scents also brought back from his journeys and encounters, from other countries and different cultures. This was a process of initiation, learning to appreciate the full diversity, richness and subtlety of wine. One essential idea emerged, the importance of terroir and its expression in wine. Being true to the earth, which gives its signature flavour to each wine. And ideas lead to commitment, defending the Appellation Controlee (AoC) system, a key battle.
Michel Chapoutier loves wine, any wines. Without chauvinism. He likes food too, the way flavours bring emotion to dishes; where food and wine pairing takes a whole new level. Michel seeks perfection, setting high standards in every aspect of his life. Welcoming goodness and beauty, saying yes to sharing, to champagne, to the conviviality of eating and drinking, to enthusiasm, obstinacy, innovation and a pioneering spirit. Yes again to clearheaded altruism, generosity and emotion. But no to sluggish, passive behaviour and people who give up before they have even tried.
A pioneering spirit, Michel Chapoutier always has a new challenge on his mind, ever on the move, his eyes fixed on the horizon. He conveys his ambition to his team, sowing ideas to make them grow, never following nor copying, always initiating and creating, opening the way. He takes his convictions to their logical conclusion, with no fear of being side-tracked or going against the grain.
For the terroir
• a combination of soil (pedology and geology),
• climate (microclimate and vintage),
• human talent (provided by people and tradition).
It also means paying attention to each plot, listening to the world,
the environment, anticipating the needs of the earth.
Respect for the fruit, the grape. Maison M. Chapoutier is one of the few Rhône Valley winery to have a team specifically dedicated with “accompanying the wine-harvest”. This is a new vinegrowing skill in order to provide guidance and support on farming methods for Maison M. Chapoutier when it is acting as a merchant for the grapes.
Respect for the consumer whether they are wine connoisseurs or not. Maison M. Chapoutier crafts its regional wines with the same dedication given to the most prestigious bottles, investing just as much faith. The aim is always to convey the same love of wine, to give complete beginners a chance to discover it’s diversity.
Being audacious means keeping an open mind, embracing new horizons, other localities, other organic winegrowing methods.
Being audacious means combining tradition and modernity, making it possible for them to join forces and engender new know-how and craft.
Conviviality and generosity
Anyone who creates wines must be generous and festive. Without such qualities the creative act is doomed, sterile and vain. Conviviality and generosity are a form of self-expression, an incentive and stimulant, enhancing and encouraging, much as a wine contributes its richness to the dish it accompanies. One with the other, one for the other. The matching of food and wine is central to Michel Chapoutier’s whole approach.
(Bio=Life) + (Dynamics= In action)
Love for vines and wine and the awareness of the need to respect the earth and its terroir have led the Maison M. CHAPOUTIER to adopt a biodynamic cultivation method.
This demanding method of cultivation has become a genuine philosophy for the Maison M. CHAPOUTIER. An unflinching desire: ensure that soils are living and as expressive as possible. As to propose an "appellation d'origine contrôlée" is to propose above all an expression of the terroir.
This expression, a transmutation of mineral to plant, can only exist with a terroir that is in good condition, a terroir that is alive.
Different of taste
« Let the soil speak, express the terroir and its vintage », we can resume in these terms the quest of the maison M. CHAPOUTIER. The originality and gustative signature of the maison M. CHAPOUTIER lies in this desire not to cultivate its own "specific taste", a set style. Rather its desire is to continuously work on a difference of taste, that small specific gustative touch, specific to each terroir and to each wine...
The expression of an assertive, confident personality, Braille has been present since 1996 on all M. CHAPOUTIER labels. Far from being anecdotic, this symbol draws its origin from the very history of the Hermitage vineyard. Maurice Monier de La Sizeranne, owner of the plot of the Hermitage, la Sizeranne, is also the inventor of the first version of abbreviated Braille.
The trademark pays tribute to this man but also expresses the desire to reach out to and include all people with sight-impairments, lovers of good wines.
Or absolute respect for the soil
Biodynamics is not a recent concept, the groundwork having been done by Rudolf Steiner, a 19th century scientist. Steiner was a great observer of nature which no doubt explains why observation plays an important part in biodynamics.
Steiner realized that plants must not be treated in isolation. They are part of a whole, living with the soil and feeding on it. Plants also draw nourishment from light, transforming it into growth. The idea that took shape with other plants has now moved on to vines, maturing and growing in the process.
Biodynamics techniques have played a key role in the overall approach of Maison M.Chapoutier since 1991. “Bio”, because, more than ever, we must respect the soil; “dynamic” because the diversity of our terroirs and their rich flavours must be able to express themselves.
LIVING SOIL, A TERROIR THAT CAN EXPRESS ITSELF
Bacteria play a central role in biodynamic farming. They are like a mother to the vines. It is thanks to them that mineral becomes vegetal. The development of microbial flora is consequently essential. We enrich with cautiously prepared compost, mainly consisting in organic material. Properly applied it will enable the roots to dig deeper in search of traces of mineral elements.
It is also important to plant the vines very close together (from 8,000 to 10,000 ceps per hectare), forcing the roots to dig even deeper. Stimulated in this way, the soil transmits to the vine and the resulting wine, all the characteristic force of its terroir. Old stock are carefully preserved, for only time enables the terroir to express itself.
Much as any living organism vines are sensitive and responding to the cycles of the Earth, Sun and Moon, to spleeping and waking. Pruning is one of the most important moments. It is a real art and winegrowers are true sculptors. They domesticate their vines, educate and direct them, in the hope of achieving an essential goal: limited output.
ADAPTING TO THE SOIL
The vineyards of Maison M.Chapoutier are located on widely changing terrain. Considerable technical flexibility is consequently essential. We use tractors, horses, winches and pick-axes. And all our grapes are harvested manually.
Biodynamic growing demands an absolutely consistent approach. Traditional vinification consequently involves encouraging natural seeding of the must with native yeast. Here again the expression and personality of each terroir is preserved. White grapes are pressed entirely. Red varieties are almost always destemmed (depending on vintage and appellation).
Syrah juice ferments in open wooden vats, wich are pumped over twice a day. The wine is then put in barrels for malolactic fermentation We use oak barrels from the woods of the north of the Massif Central or around Nevers. All our wines are bottled at our property.
Michel Chapoutier does not cultivate a particular house style or “house taste”. He is looking for quite the opposite. He’s working on the differences in flavour, that little touch of savour that is specific to each terroir, each wine.
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