In a nutshell: A rare rich and aromatic biodynamic white from one of the most prestigious appellations in the world.
The lowdown: The small Northern Rhone appellation of Hermitage produces some of the world's greatest wines. Known for its reds up to a third of production is actually white made from the varieties Marsanne and Rousanne. This is a 100% Marsanne Hermitage which is both certified organic and biodynamic, made by the well regarded Chapoutier winery. The grapes are handpicked from the three vineyards of Le Meal, Les Murets and Chante-Alouette and after fermentation are aged in a mix of large used oak barrels and stainless steel vats. Complex and subtle aromas of quince, walnut, honey, ginger and acacia with ripe stone and tropical fruit notes. A rich, complex and full bodied palate. This wine is so smooth and well balanced with those ripe fruit flavours and exotic spice notes coming through. The finish is very long and clean, thanks to the balanced acidity. This wine is an absolute treat and is very enjoyable now though will keep and change over the next few years.
When to drink: While it pairs well with such foods as lobster, fish and poultry in rich sauces, it also works well with goats and blue cheeses, some spicy foods and curry.
Indisputably one of the Rhône's great names Chapoutier was originally established in 1808 and is based in the town of Tain l'Hermitage on the banks of the river itself. Today overall extent of the estate is huge, with vineyards along the whole length of the Rhône region together with substantial holdings in Roussillon. They are also in the Alsace, The Douro valley in Portugal and have 58 hectares in the Australian state of Victoria.
Whilst for much of the 20th century it's fair to say that their standing among Rhône valley producers had dipped somewhat things changed dramatically from 1990 when Michel Chapoutier took over from his father Max. Michel was one of the pioneers of biodynamic viticulture and his personal devotion to this principle combined with the ownership of some of the most favoured sites in the region has propelled the estate back to the front rank of Rhône producers. Soils on their estate never see artificial pesticides or herbicides and floral growth among the rows is considered essential in coaxing the best out of the vines. One small point of interest about their labels is that they are all printed in Braille and have been since the mid 1990s.
They currently own the largest biodynamic vineyard in Europe and produce some of the Rhône's most famous wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the south to Hermitage and Condrieu in the north. Under the energetic Michel Chapoutier they are constantly seeking out top quality vineyard sites and this is certainly one of the factors that put them at the forefront over recent decades.