Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Wine Blogging Wednesday #29

Welcome to Wine Blogging Wednesday # 29. Muchas gracias to Fork & Bottle for being the gracious hosts.

When I went looking for a biodynamic wine, the wines of M. Chapoutier immediately came to mind. I have a serious affection for Rhône wines and Michel Chapoutier stands tall (not in stature, but in reputation) as one of the superstars of the Rhône Valley.

He is also an outspoken proponent of biodynamics. All of the vineyards under his control are managed using biodynamic techniques, and he is clearly a man who respects the soil.

In “A Hedonist in the Cellar,” Jay McInerney quotes him as saying, “I am a soil discoverer.” Most of his quotes are peppered with references to soil, earth and terrior.

Apparently there are quite a few people who would describe him in different terms. The term “Napoleonic” has been tossed around. (The fact that he has a pronounced limp probably doesn't help.)

But whatever his quirks, he does make a mean bottle of wine. Unfortunately (or fortunately for my checking account), the only one of his many wines that I could turn up was the M. Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône “Belleruche” Rouge 2003 ($12.99). I was hoping to find one of his white Hermitages, but no dice.

It was far from a disappointing find, however. I drink a fair amount of Côtes du Rhône wines and so I am somewhat hard to impress. This wine definitely impressed me.

The nose was absolutely gorgeous—deep, concentrated and swimming with dark cherries, cassis and white pepper. The flavor was just as stunning—silky and rich with a nice balance of black and red fruit, a pleasant earthy note and finishing up with that white pepper I love so much.

The grapes for this wine are hand-picked, 100% destemmed before crushing and the wines is aged in a combination of barrels and vats. The blend varies from year to year, but as best I can tell this vintage is 50% syrah and 50% grenache.

So did it taste biodynamic? It’s hard for me to say. It tasted like a bottle of wine that someone made with a whole lotta love. And if they did so without the use of pesticides and chemicals, while also treating the soil with respect, then all the better. It certainly makes me want to seek out other biodynamic wines.

This Wine Blogging Wednesday has made me consider the importance of vineyard management techniques in the winemaking process. On a personal level, it also reinforces some of the home gardening practices I have adopted: not using pesticides or chemicals, using natural compost and selecting plants based on harmony within my environment.

Cheers, Jack and Joanne. Thanks for spreading the gospel on biodynamics.


Dr. Debs said...

Great post! I think it's pretty obvious in most walks of life that taking some extra time and care makes a difference in the final product. Italian chefs say you should only stir polenta in one direction. Like biodynamics, I suspect that what this requires is attention to the process, and that's one of the big payoffs whether you're making polenta or pinot grigio!

John said...

Thanks, Deb. I think you're right that part of biodynamics is respecting the process. Technological advances in winemaking have led some to believe that they can circumvent parts of the process with the same results. However, technology will never replace care.

Jack said...

Great post! I've hardly had any Chapoutier wines other than a zillion bottles of 1998 Belleruche, if you can believe.

John said...

Thanks, Jack. I'm going to keep looking for that Hermitage blanc.

Culinary Fool said...

Wow! I has such a different experience with the 2005 release of this wine! It was pleasant but not remarkable at all. Just goes to show how different vintages really do have different personalities.

~ B

John said...

I was pretty surprised to see your review also, but the 2004 got a very lukewarm review also.

I guess 2003 was their year. It was a very warm vintage. I'm going to get another bottle to confirm my impressions (in the interest of science, of course).