Late last week Jeb Dunnuck, the leading Rhone critic, released his long awaited 2018 vintage report, saying ‘I think the 2018s are richer and more concentrated than both 2016 and 2017’. Thus, 2018 even in its nascent stage competes to be the finest of four great banner years, Dunnuck goes on to say this ‘is another sensational vintage for the region.’ Josh Raynolds of Vinous aptly summarises the vintage as, ‘a marriage of the richness of 2017 to the energy of 2016,’ It is clear therefore that the 2018s are special, the only pressing issue is the drastic reduction in yields which affected many producers in the Southern Rhone (of up to 65% in some cases) which makes it all the more crucial to secure any cases from your favourite growers immediately upon release, while the scant quantities remain available.
As one might expect the wines of Maison M. Chapoutier form the acme of hermitage, receiving uber scores which cement the wines as must buys. Dunnuck has awarded Chapoutier’s Ermitage Pavillon a potential perfect score of 97-100 calling it ‘legendary Hermitage in the making.’ Few would bet against this scoring a perfect 100 on re-tasting, something that occurred with the 2015 and 2017. The 2015 which has a perfect score has already passed £1,200 per case, the 2010 with the same score £1,250. Le Pavillon is produced from steep granite soils on the hillside of Les Bessards. The 2018 is priced today on release at £1,035.
Chapoutier’s L’Ermite received a score of 97-99, saying ‘While the Pavillon has a more L’Ermite-like character in this vintage, the L’Ermite is more Pavillon-like with its beautiful opulence and decadence.’ L’Ermite made its debut in 1996 and is produced from very old vines, many over 100 years old, with some of the finest terroir in Hermitage, sited on the top of the famous hill, next to the chapel. It is priced today on release at £1,155, again as one of their greatest ever. Less than 400 cases were produced.
We will release the great white wines tomorrow along with the Saint Joseph. However, we are thrilled to offer Chapoutier Les Greffieux 2018 and Chapoutier Cote-Rotie La Mordoree 2018 two must own Rhone wines. They offer remarkable quality and the value proposition is utterly superb. As highly allocated as Pavillon and L’Ermite the wine Chapoutier Les Greffieux is the youngest single vineyard wine from Chapoutier. The inaugural vintage was in 2001, though the majority of the vines were planted at the end of the second World War. It comes from a lieu-dit at the base of the Meal hillside. Dunnuck has awarded it 97-100 points, making it a must own wine. He states, ‘Its deep black colour is followed by a killer bouquet of black and blue fruits, cured meats, ground herbs, chocolate, and graphite that opens up beautifully with time in the glass.’ Its scores makes it the greatest in its history, capable to surpass the 2006, which trades today at £1,200. Indeed, most vintages jump quickly above £600 after a couple of years on the secondary market. We are delighted to release this today for £495 a case of six, a brilliant price point. Less than 250 cases were made in 2018.
Chapoutier Cote-Rotie La Mordoree is a wine for collectors in the know. It heralds from 60-year-old vines on the Cote Blonde and is among their most sought-after wines from the brilliant Cote Rotie appellation, made from 97% Syrah with the famous lift of Viognier, which makes Cote Rotie so adored. The name La Mordoree trademarked by Chapoutier is their version of Guigal’s La Moulin and La Turque, the Northern Rhone single vineyards that inspired its creation. It has been awarded an incredible 97-99 points from Dunnuck, putting it on par with Guigal’s La las yet, priced at £450 per case of six provides six bottles for the price of one of the La Las. With less than 250 cases made, collectors should back up the truck today, there is very little released on allocation. The prices rise after release, particularly in great vintages and like Les Greffieux are two wines which will rise consistently in price over the coming decade, the quality is so high as is the global cachet.
The wines of Chapoutier need little introduction, famed for producing among the greatest, most complex wine of the Northern Rhone. Without any formal hierarchical cru system existing in the Rhone Valley, Maison M. Chapoutier have been at the forefront of a movement of establishing lieux-dits in the Rhone to express the unique character of each their individual vineyard sites with their Selections Parcellaires. These are crucial to their philosophy and celebrated throughout the Rhone, representing exactly outlined provenance, celebrating delineated terroir to the extreme, culminating in the very characterisation of the concept of terroir, the single vineyard Hermitage wines.
The Chapoutier family form one of the pillars of Rhone wine, with their family able to trace their history back to 1808. However, it was in 1879 that Polydor Chapoutier bought their first vineyard, forming the Chapoutier company. As the history passes to the latter half of the 20th century in 1977 Max Chapoutier passed the reigns over to his sons Michel and Marc, with Michel taking control in 1988. They invested further into their vineyards and in the 1980s the Maison began to take centre stage, establishing themselves among critics and collectors as the wines to own. Today all their vineyards are run using biodynamic ideologies, all of their grapes in Hermitage and Chateauneuf du Pape are fully destemmed prior to fermentation. The Maison has moved away from chestnut foudres, now focusing on ageing the wines in small oak casks for 18 months, with a third new oak. All wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered, maintaining the purity and character to the last.
Trading of these wines will be extremely busy in the coming week, with collectors eager to secure allocations post Dunnuck’s report. The Wine Advocate release their scores this coming Friday as Rhone en primeur gets into full flow, savvy buyers should secure their wines now.