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Monsieur Chapoutier and a Marsanne Masterclass at Mentzendorff
“Wine is not made to be watched- it is made to be drunk!”
A man in a button down shirt and waistcoat looking like a college professor sits before me. His eyes light up when a glass of Champagne is set in front of him. He starts by toasting us. We enviously raise our glasses of water to return the toast.
He is Monsieur (M.) Michel Chapoutier, described as “one of the most highly respected wine makers in France.” M. Chapoutier, bought his family’s winery, Maison M. Chapoutier, (from his grandfather) in 1990, when he was only 26. He combines a mixture of traditional methods and modern techniques to make the winery successful and has expanded far beyond the family’s start in Rhône.
While espousing the benefits of biodynamics, he seeks new developments in technologies that unsurprising raises a few eyebrows in the European Union wine community. When dealing with tartaric crystals, he prefers to run a small amount of electricity through the wine. He finds it ecologically sounder than the traditional method of lowering the temperature to near freezing.
His environmental passion is evident as he speaks of the Terroir. “I don’t want to make best wine as possible (like the new world). I want to make the best wines as possible for terroir.“ He describes terroir as a combination of soil, climate and human talent.
He explains how the soils stay alive with natural yeast and bacteria and that this yeast and bacteria help the vines develop their complexity.
“In wine making, plenty of people think the secret is blending. For me, the blending is the consequence of soils that were not complex, so people had to blend when they had simple soils to create that complexity.”
He continues, “the best wines in the world are white burgundy and red burgundy and they are not blended.”
Like the burgundy, his single varietal Marsanne is excellent. The deep golden colour, intense aroma and full-bodied, slightly saline flavour of the Ermitage De L’Orée Blanc 2011 demands food. The same wine from 2006 proves it can stand up to years of aging.