2006 Chapoutier Hermitage Le Meal Blanc

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Wine Critic Reviews for 2006 Chapoutier Hermitage Le Meal Blanc

Just as good as the de l’Orée, but in a very different style, the medium gold-hued 2006 Ermitage Le Méal Blanc has a complex, layered perfume of honeysuckle, orange blossom, celery seed, caramelized stone fruits, and acacia flowers. Just about pure perfection on the palate, it’s full-bodied, deep, and incredibly concentrated, with a stacked mid-palate, an unctuous, opulent texture, and a gorgeous finish. This is another magical Hermitage Blanc from the genius of Michel Chapoutier. Don’t miss it.

Jeb Dunnuck | 99 JD
From a warmer micro-climate, the 2006 Ermitage Le Meal blanc boasts extraordinarily intense fruit, glycerin, and tactile impression. Stones, cherries, red currants, quince, and honeyed citrus are all present in this colossal wine that is unctuously textured, very full-bodied, and super-ripe and long. It reveals less noticeable acidity than l’Oree or l’Ermite, and, like Les Granits, it is a wine that can be drunk early, but it should last for 25-30 years.

While Michel Chapoutier produces some of the world’s greatest wines from single parcels of old vines spread throughout the northern and southern Rhone (see my ecstatic reviews of his 2007 and 2006 Chateauneuf du Papes in issue #179), he also has an impressive portfolio of value-priced wines that are often over-looked when this impressive producer is discussed. Following are some top-notch picks that all sell for exceptionally fair prices. Chapoutier has not achieved as great as success in Cornas as he has in the other northern Rhone appellations, although his Cornas wines get better with each vintage. There are four extraordinary single vineyard white wines, all of which are among the greatest dry white wines of the world. While all of them can be drunk young, they are meant for extended cellaring. Made from very small yields, they represent the essence of a varietal as well as a vineyard site. As the following notes demonstrate, 2006 was one of the greatest vintages for white wines at Chapoutier. The single vineyard selection parcellaire red wines range in production from 500 to nearly 1,000 cases. 2007 is a very good vintage for these selections, but 2006 has an edge. It is reminiscent of 1996 because of the wines’ freshness and acid levels, but Chapoutier’s 2006s are even more concentrated than his 1996s. Chapoutier’s four 2006 cuvees of single vineyard Hermitage are exquisite. Most of the yields were between 10 and 20 hectoliters per hectare, and the wines are extravagantly rich. The 2006 and 2007 luxury cuvees of Chateauneuf du Pape Croix des Bois and Chateauneuf du Pape Barbe Rac were reviewed in issue #179. They are all astounding wines, especially in 2007.

Robert Parker | 99 RP
Powerful—and slightly bass heavy for now—with apricot, peach and persimmon notes leading the way, followed by alluring piecrust, salted butter, yellow apple and mineral notes that stretch out the finish. Needs a little time to come together fully, but then should cruise in the cellar. Best from 2010 through 2025. 682 cases made, 100 cases imported.

Wine Spectator | 97 WS
Medium gold. Deep, pungent aromas of honey, apricot pit and brown sugar, with a subtle lemon rind quality adding vivacity. Rich and fleshy, with nervy acidity lifting the ripe pit fruit and poached pear flavors. Finishes with a jolt of anise. This is very complex.

Vinous Media | 93 VM

Wine Details on 2006 Chapoutier Hermitage Le Meal Blanc

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Producer M. Chapoutier: There is something special about a winemaker who claims, “I fall head over heels every day of my life.” Michel Chapoutier is a wine lover, a life lover. Whether it is a book, a painting or wine, Michel Chapoutier falls in love ten times per day. This passion is conveyed through his artistic and affectionate approach at the multitude of endeavors he undertakes daily. He is unique, unconventional, curious, enthusiastic and selfless. A farmer who is close to the earth on a quest for revealing terroirs and finding the expressions of soils through the taste of wines.

Chapoutier is one of the most recognized and respected names in Rhone. Though the premises in Tain l’Hermitage has been in existence since 1808, it was the mind and extraordinary efforts of Michel Chapoutier that have catapulted the quality of wines bearing his family name to elite status. Since taking over the business in 1989, he has been quite “disruptive,” given his inability to conform to principals of the past and preconceived ideas which allowed a temporary demise of the estate in the late 1980’s. Upon taking control he immediately implemented changes that would challenge traditional winemaking, sourcing of grapes and the terroir in which to plant. He would also implement biodynamic and organic harvesting.

He is a firm believer that winemaking begins with respect. Respect for the terroir, the unique equation between soil, climate, and human talent. Respect for the earth by anticipating its needs, for the plant and fruit until the harvest and for the consumers whether they are connoisseurs or not. He insists that without respect, wine has no soul. His respectful and generous personality is a welcome and refreshing trademark that is well known by colleagues.

Chapoutier believes that without generosity, the creation of wine would be senseless, for wine is meant to be shared. Generosity is a form of expression that encourages, initiates and dares, enriching the wine when consumed. An example of this generosity can be witnessed simply by looking at the label, which is inscribed with braille. Since 1996, every bottle of M. Chapoutier has been imprinted with braille; paying tribute to the man responsible for its invention, Maurice Monier de la Sizeranne who is also the founder of Valentin Hauy Association. This extraordinary and unprecedented feat by Monier helped bring the blind and visually challenged out of isolation. One of Chapoutier’s labels even carries his name which is produced from a plot which Monier’s father owned, who was a vintner himself. This is Chapoutier’s way of giving back to someone who made a real contribution.

Chapoutier is not only a grower, but a negociant who has diligently pursued the best terroirs in not only Hermitage but other Rhone appellations including Roussillon, Cotes-Du-Rhone, and Chateauneuf-Du-Pape and has extended his influence to terroir hotspots around the globe including, Portugal, Australia, Alsace and Spain. Through his extensive efforts, Chapoutier is now able to offer a wine at nearly every price range from inexpensive Cotes-Du-Rhones to his beloved single vineyard plot selections from his own estate.

Though Chapoutier produces wines which blend varieties such as his Cotes-Du-Rhones, he is a proponent of single varietal bottlings, insisting that blending does not necessarily develop complexity but instead gives credit to the soil structure, whether it is the acidity or the bacterial levels. For instance, his highly coveted single vineyard whites such as Le Meal and Les Greffieux are both 100% Marsanne. He prefers not to use or include Roussanne due to its sensitivity to oxidation, as he wishes his wines to age. His preference of Burgundy and how complex and elegant the wine is able to be fashioned with a single variety is much more impressive than the wines of Bordeaux, he insists. Chapoutier has implemented this ideal in many of his estate wines with great success including his 100% Syrah L’Ermite and Le Pavillon,

Chapoutier produces an astonishing portfolio of wines that encompasses some of the greatest terroir in the world, from Hermitage to Chateauneuf-Du-Pape, Australia to Portugal. The multitude of varieties planted are both impressive and too long to list. However, if a label carries the M. Chapoutier name, it is guaranteed to be of tremendous quality whether it is found on the bottom rack in a wine shop or acquired by collectors through auction. Each bottling is sure to be an expression of passion, generosity and an unrivaled respect for the land where the grapes are born and bred with love. A love that is meant to be shared and enjoyed.
Region Rhone: While the Northern Rhone produces only about 5% of all wine coming out of the Rhone Valley, the quality of these bottles is not to be underestimated. The terroir in this region is heavenly for growing Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne or Rousanne - the only permitted grapes in the AOC. Picture this - the Rhone flows through the valley like an azure thread piercing the landscape, a reflection of the dreamy skies hovering above the vineyards, ready to produce rainfall at a moment's notice. The rocky soil of the steep, almost surreal hillsides provides a bountiful feast for the grapevine roots. The flavors and texture of Northern Rhone wines tell you everything you need to know as soon as your lips touch the elixir, like a whisper in the vigorous valley winds

As per the Southern Rhone wine, it is like taking a plunge into a whirlpool of juicy flavor. Every sip explodes forward like a crashing tsunami, bathing your tastebuds in delicious aromas of prune, chocolate, grass, and black fruit. The wines are so compelling that it can be hard to drink them casually at a social event without getting lost in their intricate textures and emotional depths. Let's set sail together, and drink deep from these luxurious bottles with our friends and loved ones.
Subregion Northern Rhone
Appellation Hermitage
Climat/Vineyard Le Meal
Country France: Wine is the lifeblood that courses through the country of France, pulsing with vigorous pride and determination. Viticulture is not just a hobby or an occupation in France; it is a passion, a cherished tradition that has been passed down through generations of wine stained hands. Winemaking is a beloved art that has been ingrained in the culture, an aptitude instilled in sons by fathers and the hallmark for which France’s reputation was built, allowing it to be renowned as, arguably, the most important wine producing country in the world.

For centuries, France has been producing wines of superior quality and in much greater quantity than any other country in the world. It boasts some of the most impressive wine regions, coveted vineyards and prestigious wines on earth. The regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone, Sauternes and Champagne have become the benchmark, for which others aspire to become. Legendary producers such as Chateaux Margaux, Domaine De La Romanee Conti, Chapoutier, d’Yquem and Dom Perignon are idolized world-wide.

France has stamped its name on nearly every style of wine, from the nectar-like sweet Sauternes to hedonistic Chateauneuf Du Papes classic Bordeaux and Burgundy, to its sparkling dominance in Champagne. Many of the most infamous grape varietals in the world, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay originated in France and are not only beloved, but utilized in the creation of some of the greatest wines on earth. French wine production commands the attention of the wine market year after year. With over 860,000 hectares under vine, and numbers close to 50 million hectoliters of wine produced annually, France dominates the market and sets the standard for not only product quality, but also quantity.

France’s many contributions to the world of wine have been absolutely indispensable. The country is the originator of the term “Premier Cru,” coined the term Terroir (a French term so complex there is no literal translation) and has laid the blueprint for a structured appellation system, which others have implemented in their own countries. French vineyard techniques and winemaking practices are mimicked world-wide. California vintners have been replicating Rhone style wines for decades, South America has adopted the French varietal of Malbec and countries around the world are imitating Burgundian styled Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

With vast diversity in terroir, France is home to some of the most hospitable winegrowing locations on earth. The combination of topography, geology, climate, rainfall and even the amount of sunlight combined with the long historical tradition of winegrowing and making, has allowed the vintners of France to not only hone their skills, but learn from nature to create a product that like the world in which it resides… is very much alive.

Type of Wine Hermitage: Hermitage provides a bouquet of scents and flavors with a texture that cannot be fully deciphered. Expect to be blown away by an orchestral composition of primal blackberries and black raspberries, earthy minerals, playful spice and a thick bassline of smoke. Their immense aging potential makes them ideal candidates for hoarding in your cellar!
Varietal Marsanne: Northern Rhone is home to some of the most fascinating and awe-inspiring wine-producing grapes on earth. It is arguably, the hedonistic capital of the wine-world. While the heady and delectable Syrah-based wines of Cote-Rotie have certainly captivated their audience among red wine consumers, the white grape varietals of Northern Rhone have an image all their own for producing sexy, seductive and mouth-watering whites. Among the varietals responsible for such allure is Marsanne. This white grape, along with its relative, Roussanne, have been producing wines of ethereal quality for centuries and recognized as being some of the greatest whites in the world.

The history of Marsanne remains somewhat of a mystery, though it is believed to have originated in the town for which it is named, Marsanne, near Montelimar, in the northern Rhone Valley. Marsanne-based wines (along with Roussanne) from Hermitage gained notoriety during the 17th Century, being considered among the world’s finest. Thomas Jefferson, Ambassador to France, third president of the United States and wine connoisseur, claimed white Hermitage to be “...the first wine in the world without a single exception.”

Together, Marsanne and Roussanne form the core of white wines from Hermitage, Crozes Hermitage, Saint-Joseph and Saint-Peray. Marsanne possesses good weight and structure, adds depth and rich texture but lacks any depth of perfume, which explains its long standing Rhone Valley tradition of being blending with is more aromatic relative, Roussanne. Though It is rarely seen apart from Roussanne (to which is shares a parent-offspring relationship) due to the incredible cooperative nature the two varietals serve one another, Marsanne has long suffered the stigma of being the inferior grape. Recently, however, the roles have reversed and Marsanne now occupies more vineyard space in the Northern Rhone than its aromatic stablemate, which is fussier in the vineyard, requiring warmer temperatures and is susceptible to a slew of vineyard diseases. The passing of the torch is not a completely accurate statement, though Marsanne is enjoying its deserved fame, as some of the greatest producers in the world, such as Chapoutier, are creating masterpieces from 100% Marsanne grapes.

Marsanne thrives in terroirs composed of clay, granite, chalk and limestone soils, which are typical of those found in the Northern Rhone Valley. It is perfectly suited to the hilly terrain of Hermitage, where it reaches its best expression. The cooler climate of the region allows the varietal to produce extremely complex and age-worthy wines. The plant, itself, demands a great amount of time to mature and bear fruit, but is one of the longest living, with some of its oldest vines being over 100 years of age.

The berries are small in size with a skin that combines gold, green and brown hues. They grow in loose bunches, which allows natural ventilation and acts as a deterrent against bunch rot and other vineyard hazards. The vines are quite vigorous and thrive in the “poor” soil composition of the region, needing little rain; however it can be a bit demanding of water during the hotter summer months. Harvesting is time-sensitive and must be completed promptly otherwise the grapes lose much needed acidity (as the grapes are considered low to moderate).

Wines produced from Marsanne have aromas of roasted nuts, pears, white peaches, honeydew melon, spices and wildflower, such as honeysuckle, with flavors of honey, chamomile and vanilla custard. They can develop an enthralling mouthfeel with a silky, exotic, oily texture. Marsanne-based wines drink well young, but time spent in bottle allows for notes of hazelnut and almond and the honey tones deepen to caramel. The wines are age-worthy and can be cellared for a decade or more. Although dry styles of Marsanne are more common, some of the very finest examples of the varietal are the sweet Vin de Paille wines, otherwise known as “straw wine.” This labor intensive method entails the grapes being dried on straw mats in the sun, allowing them to become shriveled, raisin-like and extremely concentrated, before being pressed and fermented. The result is a honey-like nectar, sweet dessert wine and is highly touted as being one of the greatest wines in the world.

Eighty percent of the world’s Marsanne is found in France, which should not be surprising. Outside its native homeland of the Rhone Valley, Marsanne has found second home in Australia. The varietal arrived to the southern continent in the 1860s and has done quite well in the terroir and climate “down under.” California is seeing more production from the white varietal, most notably from Tablas Creek, which is considered one of the more Rhone inspired producers, or “Rhone Ranger.” The world is becoming more cognizant of the varietal to which it is greatly deserved.

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