Producer

M. Chapoutier

Country

AUSTRALIA, FRANCE, PORTUGAL, SPAIN

Region of production

ALSACE, Burgundy, RIBERA DEL DUERO, LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLON, Douro, Rhône Valley

Appellations

More than 30

Founded

1808

Climate

Varies, depending on the region

Soil composition

Varies, depending on the region

Vineyard

360 hectares used for production on two continents

Agriculture

Organic and biodynamic techniques used for the vines on their properties

Production Volume

More than 10 million bottles; 90% reds, 10% whites

Varieties Grown

Grenache Noir , Marsanne, Syrah, Viognier

Ages of Vines

55 years old, on average

Behind the Wines

Michel Chapoutier

Michel is a seventh-generation Chapoutier winemaker at Tain-L’Hermitage, having acquired the family estate in 1990. He is known for being a generous person with a human approach to business. Not only does he support social and workforce reintegration initiatives, in 1996 he became the first in the industry to include braille on his product labels. Beyond that, Michel has also earned a reputation for producing wines that are highly representative of where they are grown, true “snapshots of the terroir.”

Terroir. Nothing but Terroir.

Access the wines of this producer

“A wine’s quality potential stems from the vine, not the cellar,” says Michel. “The work accomplished while on the vine establishes what the range of potential will be, and the winemaker can then work within that range, but never exceed it. In other words, our job is to realize that potential, not to create it.”

A simple philosophy

According to Michel, terroir is defined as “the confluence of soil, climate and human talent.” The fact that his wines differ from one year to another is proof of their authenticity. He doesn’t believe in “correcting” a vintage; a wine will either represent its terroir or it won’t. 

A self-proclaimed “lazy winemaker”

When Michel returned from California at age 26, he acquired the family estate, but he was critical of the standard style of the wines it produced. Wanting something more authentic, he questioned the “ancestral” methods, which in this case was an agronomic approach. Being a self-proclaimed “lazy winemaker,” he let the grapes grow in peace and allowed the wine to reach maturity in good time. The process suited him perfectly. “Agriculture, even biodynamic growing, is a struggle, and the winegrower a warrior.”

Casting the soils

Even though Michel owned the Ermitage plots—where some of France’s leading wines are grown—he wanted to grow the winery. The problem, however, was that well-known properties were prohibitively expensive. His solution was to become a “terroir-maker.” With help from French experts in the art of decoding soils, he acquired large, dormant plots in Europe and Australia that were waiting to prove their capabilities. The expression “soil casting” stuck. The Chapoutier estate, which had been on the verge of bankruptcy at the time it was purchased, would go on to earn international acclaim. 

One plot, one wine

“Plot selection is the exact opposite of wine blending. We harvest and vinify the grapes, but we never try to override the soil’s signature characteristics. And then, we wait.” That’s how wine is made at Maison M. Chapoutier. The statement on the estate’s coat of arms—Fac et spera—has also become its motto: Do and Hope.

Wine fit for a meal

Michel Chapoutier bemoans the fact that many oenologists don’t know how to make wines that complement food. “Wine’s purpose is to enhance a meal, and in order for a dish and a wine to pair well, they must have complementary features. The one thing winemakers should always keep in mind is: What will this wine be enjoyed with?” His commitment to the cause is so strong that, in 2009, he founded the Pâté-Croûte world championship event, arguing that “Wine and gastronomy are pillars of French culture, and we must constantly promote awareness and appreciation around the world.”

A love affair with Quebec

The relationship between Michel Chapoutier and Philippe Dandurand is 20 years strong. It makes sense, therefore, that his Sélections Parcellaires and prestige wines are represented by Galleon.

In fact, Michel has fallen in love with Quebec, its frigid winters and dynamic population. He even bought a house in Montreal instead of New York City, where he has his offices!