"Winemakers who capture the essence of the Rhône's great vineyards become legends. And while there are several legends at work among these ancient vines, none is as young and none has moved so quickly to capture the imagination of Rhône lovers as Michel Chapoutier"
~ Wine & Spirits
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.
"Michel is always pushing the envelope to the extreme with his enthusiasm and passion," says William A. Terlato, President of Terlato Wines International.
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
A 19th Century Foundation
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.
A young visionary finds a partner in quality
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.
An Unconditional Commitment to Quality
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.
The legendary Selections Parcellaires of Maison M. Chapoutier are among the greatest red and white wines produced in the world. These small-production wines made from distinct, very low-yielding parcels of land express the unique terroir of the Rhône's most important appellations.
"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.