Michel Chapoutier is one of the most highly regarded winemakers in France. Since taking over his family firm in 1990 at age 26, Michel Chapoutier has transformed the winery into the leading Rhône Valley producer. He combines the modern and the traditional: crusading for biodynamic winemaking, while expanding operations around the globe and experimenting with cutting edge winemaking techniques.
This restless energy and unconditional commitment to quality has produced tremendous success. In 2003 alone, Maison M. Chapoutier's wines garnered no less than 88 ratings of 90+ points as well as broad acclaim from the most widely regarded publications including The Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, International Wine Cellar, Wine & Spirits, and Wine Enthusiast. In the last three years, Robert Parker has awarded five of Michel Chapoutier's wines perfect 100 point scores.
"Michel Chapoutier's enthusiasm and commitment to exceptional, naturally made wines is a winemaking triumph, as well as a clear victory for all who care about the quality of wine"
~ Robert Parker Jr., The Wine Advocate
M. Chapoutier's roots in the Rhône date back to 1808, when the family first settled in Tain l'Hermitage from the Ardèche Mountains.
The family purchased a winery owned by Comte Monier de la Sizeranne and over time, acquired a number of excellent vineyards - including some of the oldest in France. M. Chapoutier became one of the most important names in the prestigious Hermitage, Côte Rôtie and Châteuneuf-du-Pape appellations.
It was Michel Chapoutier's grandfather who ignited a passion for winemaking and a commitment to quality in his young grandson, inspiring Michel to leave Tain to study oenology at one of France's best winemaking schools, subsequently landing him winemaking internships in California. In 1987, Michel returned to Tain l'Hermitage and discovered that the family's winery was languishing - his father's wines weren't selling and the family firm was in danger of bankruptcy.
In 1989, a close mutual friend of Anthony Terlato, Chairman and CEO of Terlato Wines International, insisted that he visit the M. Chapoutier winery to meet Michel, who was 25 years of age at the time. Although Terlato's schedule was overburdened, he agreed to make the trip because he remembered the quality of the M. Chapoutier wines he had tasted in the 1950s in his father's retail shop. For hours they talked, tasting wines from Michel's grandfather as well as some barrel samples from 1989 the first vintage vinified entirely by Michel.
"I met a winemaker who I think is an absolute genius," Terlato told his son by telephone. "He may revolutionize how vineyards are treated with something called biodynamic farming. He's brilliant and only 25 years old. We are going to be selling some great Rhône wines." Upon learning of the firm's tight financial situation, Terlato agreed to pay in advance for the 1989 vintage, permitting Michel to take full control over winemaking and providing him the capital needed to upgrade Michel's winemaking program.
Under Michel's leadership, dramatic changes brought world acclaim to his wines. He pruned back the vineyards and boldly reduced yields from 35 or more hectoliters per hectare (2.6 tons per acre) to 25 hectoliters per hectare (1.8 tons per acre) for both red and white wines. Michel went further, launching a crusade against chemicals, fertilizers and sprays. He adopted biodynamic and organic farming techniques in his estate vineyards, harvesting grapes by hand and using only natural yeasts to produce unfiltered wines.
Today, M. Chapoutier is the only producer to own vineyards in all of the major Rhône appellations. With Michel's guidance, the family firm has become the benchmark Rhône wine producer.
"In this short period, Michel Chapoutier has amassed a record of unprecedented achievement …he is one of the most influential wine personalities of the last 20 years."
~ Robert Parker Jr.
They were appreciated as early on as Roman times when they were enjoyed (as well as Côte Rotie wines) under the name of " Vienne wines "and were later to be called " Saint Christopher's hillside wines " because of a chapel there bearing the saint's name. They were also to be known of as " Tournon wines ".
The name of Hermitage probably first appeared in the XVIIth Century in memory of Henry Gaspard, a knight from Stérimberg : who having come back from the Crusades (in the XIIIth Century) and tired of waging war, lived as a hermite on a hillside which had been given to him by Anne of Castille,Queen of Spain.
There he planted a vineyard. Alexander Dumas as well as the Tsar Nicholas II are among the many connoisseurs of this particularly highly estimated wine.