Founded in 1808, M. Chapoutier is one of the most renowned producers of the Rhone Valley. Though the producer was for much of its history a negociant known for decent but unremarkable wines, the newest generation of the Chapoutier family to run the business, Michel Chapoutier, has since the early 1990s turned the estate into a star. Michel embraced biodynamic viticulture in 1989, completely renovated the cellars and upgraded the elevage by using small oak barrels. With 151.9 acres of vineyards divided between the north and south regions of the Rhone Valley, M. Chapoutier is also one of the largest producers. Nearly 120,000 bottles total are produced each year. The prestige cuvees at the top of the M. Chapoutier line are neither fined nor filtered, giving them a richness and great concentration. Grapes grown by the estate are Syrah, Marsanne, Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Roussanne. The vines average between 50 and 100 years old.
The Northern Rhône Valley wine region hugs the Rhône River from Vienne in the north to Valence at its southern tip. The French call the region Côtes du Rhône Septentrionales, and it is divided into eight appellations. Along with its neighbor to the south, the Southern Rhone Valley, it is famous for its big, tannic, intensely concentrated wines. Syrah is the only red grape permitted in AOC wines from this sub-region, though the Syrah can be blended with the white wine grapes Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne, depending on the regulations for each AOC. White wines are made from Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. Of the eight appellations in the north, the most admired wines tend to come from Côte-Rôtie, Condrieu and Hermitage, though there are certainly exceptional wines to be found in St. Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage, St.-Peray, Crozes-Hermitage and Cornas. Along with Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne, Rhône wines are among France’s best known and most collected wines. Red wines from these appellations are notable for their signature aromas of bacon and green olives, and for their depth. Robert M. Parker, a great champion of Rhone wines, has written that “the northern Rhône produces three of the greatest wines in the world – the white wines of Condrieu and the red wines of Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage.”
This grape is grown in milder climates and produces a medium-to full-bodied wine. It is also known as Shiraz, but should not be confused with Petit Sirah, which was developed by crossing Syrah with Peloursin.