A real bargain, but available only in the UK unfortunately. See below for details of how you can buy the wine estate above.
I apologise for the fact that this wine’s distribution is distinctly limited, but it seems such a bargain in the UK, I just couldn’t resist choosing it as today’s wine of the week. The 2019 usually costs £9 a bottle in Tesco supermarkets but is on special offer until 14 February at just £7. You can order it online here.
As you may have noticed, I’m afraid I am not a frequent inspector of supermarket shelves. In fact, thanks to the pandemic, I cannot remember the last time I was in a shop of any sort. Nick kindly visits our son’s Quality Chop House food shop once a week, travelling with a taxi driver friend, usually with a case of wine leftovers for the shop staff. But the cash in my wallet has remained untouched for months.
I came across this wine via a distinctly circuitous route. Having put it off for too long, I finally tidied up the boxes on the floor of our cellar last weekend and discovered one containing a few bottles and a card on which I’d scrawled ‘Still to taste’. I fear some of these, such as the rather magnificent Querciabella Batàr 2017 Chardonnay/Pinot Bianco and the Pewsey Vale, The Contours Riesling Museum Release 2012 Eden Valley arrived quite a while ago and somehow never fitted into my tasting schedule (hangs head in shame).
Anyway, one of these bottles was M Chapoutier 2018 Côtes du Rhône-Villages which had no attached clues as to its price or where it had come from. I was therefore in an ideal position to assess it completely objectively and ended up giving it a score of 16.5/20 which, as any Purple Pager knows, is pretty high for me. This was my tasting note:
Mainly Grenache with Syrah and Mourvèdre from the southern Rhône – generally from the same sources and machine-picked. Traditional vinification in temperature-controlled concrete vats. Daily pumping over. Maceration takes approximately four weeks. Aged for 10 months in concrete vats and stainless-steel tanks.
Mid crimson. Edgy, almost rubbery nose! But certainly there is much, much more personality (and freshness) in this than in the average wine from this appellation. Served cool this is a very serious wine – far more serious than most of its peers. Imagine treacle/molasses without any sweetness whatsoever … I wonder whether this is a special bottling for the UK market as I cannot find this wine on the Chapoutier website. And there is nothing on the back label about biodynamics or any certification. It's admirable and clearly has some Syrah as well as Grenache in the mix. A cool customer! VGV
I added the VGV only after discovering, to my amazement, how little Tesco are currently asking for the 2019. The 2019 is clearly the current vintage so I asked for a sample of that one and here is my tasting note:
Very deep purplish crimson. On the nose this is stonkingly serious wine; spiced elderberries. There's still quite a bit of tannin and a touch of black pepper. There's no hurry at all to drink this but on the basis of how the 2018 is drinking now, I'd be inclined to stash away a dozen bottles until 2022 if you possibly can. If you want to drink it now, be sure to do so with substantial food – possibly something meaty and chewy. Amazingly, despite all that alcohol, it finishes cool and clean with even a hint of mint. If this were a £20 bottle of wine (which it could be), I might criticise it for having slightly too much tannin for the fruit – but (a) at £7 or even £9 I wouldn't dream of doing that and (b) the fruit is coming out in the glass as I taste. I would strongly recommend that you decant this if serving it during 2021, however. VGV at the reduced price.
The charm of the 2018 (14.5%) now suggests that, unusually for such an inexpensive wine, it is capable of ageing. I suggested drinking dates of 2021 to 2025 for that 2018, which I gave to Nick without telling him how inexpensive it was and he was hugely impressed too. For this 2019 (15%) I'd suggest ideally 2022 to 2027 (the plusses on my score of 16++ indicating that it’s likely to improve) and, if you want to drink it straight away, pour it into a decanter or clean jug beforehand to expose it to a bit of softening air.
Chapoutier, based in Tain l’Hermitage in the northern Rhône but making wine in Australia, Alsace and Roussillon, are famous for their attachment to biodynamic viticulture. Led by Michel Chapoutier, pictured above, they make really serious wine (see any of our articles about their Sélections Parcellaires). Apparently they have a winemaker based in the southern Rhône who oversees purchases from a fairly static array of sources: approximately 50% from the Gard (where so much great, juicy, Grenache-based Costières de Nîmes comes from) and 25% from each of Ardèche and Vaucluse, the Châteauneuf-du-Pape département.
Our main picture above is an aerial view of a 20-ha wine estate in the Gard ('between the Mediterranean and the Cévennes'), with 12 ha of vineyard, that is currently available from wine-property specialists Vinea Transaction for €1.55 m. I don't know about you but I am dreaming of the south of France at the moment…
Chapoutier's Belleruche blend of Côtes du Rhône is a little easier to find but a much simpler wine. In the UK Majestic are currently selling the 2019 at £11.99 (which makes the superior Côtes du Rhône-Villages look extremely good value at £7) and Star Wines & Liquors of Monroe, NY in the US is listing it at $13.99.
The prime mover behind the whole worldwide M Chapoutier operation is Michel Chapoutier. You can read about his particular style of oratory in any of the annual presentations of Chapoutier’s Sélections Parcellaires on this website.