Robert Parker 95
Closer in style to the ’11, yet with more mid-palate depth and concentration, the 2009 Ermitage Les Greffieux is a voluptuous, decadent and seriously fruited Hermitage that has full-bodied richness and power, layers of sweet fruit and awesome concentration. It will drink well for over two decades. Michel Chapoutier continues to knockout it out of the park with his tiny, single plot a oeSelections Parcellairesa releases from throughout the Rhone Valley. For this tasting, we focused on three of his northern Rhones: the Saint Joseph Les Granits, which is the largest production cuvee of the three; his new release, the Saint Joseph Les Clos, from a newly replanted vineyard that’s just now coming online; and his Ermitage Les Greffieux, which is a vineyard that Michel is liking more and more. Starting off with the Saint Josephs, Chapoutier’s Les Granits releases, both in red and white, lead the way in terms of quality in the appellation. Looking at the Saint Joseph red that’s the focus here, this roughly 500-case release (it can get close to 1,000 cases in some vintage) comes from the lieux-dits Saint Joseph and Les Chames, both of which are located around the towns of Mauve and Tournon, and have superb, southerly exposure. The lieu-dit Saint Joseph is the vineyard that the appellation is named after, and it’s a gorgeous, steep, south-facing vineyard planted on pure decomposed granite soils. The wine is 100% Syrah, from 60-to-70-year old vines, and sees a similar elevage to all of Chapoutier’s Syrahs, with the grapes completely destemmed and aging occurring in a scant 20-25% new French oak barrels. As I hope these notes show, it ages beautifully, but also dishes out loads of pleasure in its youth as well. It just so happens to also represent an awesome value. Moving to Chapoutier’s newest Saint Joseph, the Saint Joseph Les Clos comes from a southeasterly facing vineyard, located high up on the slope, and only one kilometer from the Les Granit, that was replanted in 1990. While it was widely recognized for quality wine in the past, the vineyard wasn’t replanted after it was wiped out due to phylloxera. It too is all decomposed granite, yet has a different exposure than the Les Granits, and the wines show additional purity, minerality and structure. The first release was in 2011, and the quality here is shocking; these new releases have more than a passing resemblance to a top Hermitage coming from the Les Bessards lieu-dit. Hold onto your hats and jump on board, because with wines like this, Saint Joseph is going to be the next hot commodity! Moving to Chapoutier’s Hermitage releases, there’s normally 300 cases or so of the Ermitage Les Greffieux, which comes from a lieu-dit that’s located at the bottom of the Meal, butting right up against the outskirts of Tain Hermitage. The soils here are varied, with alluvial and sediment soils giving way to deep rolled pebbles (a la Chateauneuf du Pape) as you move further up the slope. While this plot has been more widely recognized as white-wine territory, Michel makes one serious red Hermitage from it. It’s also noteworthy that this plot could be considered a clos, as it’s completely surrounded by a stone wall. As with Michel’s other Syrahs, he’s moving away from huge amounts of new oak, and this cuvee is completely destemmed (this is the norm for Hermitage) and is aged in 20-25% new French oak today. Importer: Terlato Wines International, Lake Bluff, IL; tel. (847) 604-8900
Anticipated maturity: 2014-2034
Bright violet color. A wild, expressive bouquet evokes dark berries, fruitcake, olive and pungent spices. Broad and sappy, offering sweet blackberry and cherry compote flavors and a wallop of candied flowers. Shows intense spiciness on the finish, which is sweet, focused and very persistent.