Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Chapoutier, family-owned merchant-grower based at Tain-l’Hermitage in France’s northern rhône. One of the Rhône Valley’s great names established in 1808 and with 32 ha/80 acres of precious hermitage vineyard, it languished somewhat in the late 20th century. During the 1980s, when Chapoutier’s peers (guigal and jaboulet, for example) and numerous small growers were catching the imagination of the wine world with the improving quality of their wines, Chapoutier wines stood out precisely because they seemed unexceptional by comparison. This situation changed dramatically in 1990 when Max Chapoutier’s son Michel took over the running of the company, with outspoken passion and an early devotion to biodynamic viticulture. In 1996, the firm became the first wine producer to have labels in Braille. But what really distinguishes the company is its combination of high quality, often vineyard designated, and almost restless vineyard acquisition. By 2014 Chapoutier had a total of 260 ha/642 acres of vineyard in France alone, plus 428 ha of land as yet unplanted. These included vineyards the length of the Rhône Valley, nearly 100 ha in Roussillon, and three characterful Riesling vineyards in Alsace. Chapoutier also control 15 ha of vines in the Douro Valley and a total of 58 ha in the Australian state of Victoria together with a much greater area of unplanted land, some of these ambitious projects being joint ventures. In 2014 further possibilities in the Gard département in the southern Rhône and in georgia were under review.