"This rolls along, featuring a honeyed edge and straw, heather and creamed apple notes, all gilded with pineapple, papaya and Cavaillon melon accents. Long and luxurious, with an echo of dried chamomile lending just the right amount of spine for balance. Drink now through 2020. 62 cases imported. –JM" (WS)
"A wine that seems to pack more and more quality with each vintage, the 2012 Ermitage le Meal Blanc is borderline perfection, and didn't lose a beat being served beside the de l’Orée and l'Ermite. Flamboyant, ripe, honeyed and decadent, with thrilling white currants, buttered citrus, orange blossom and licorice, it too is a massive wine that will have decades of life. Make no mistake though, it's gorgeous even today.
Michel Chapoutier has once again produced one of the reference-point lineups for the entire Rhône Valley. Certainly, his 2012s lived up to my billing last year, and they’re easily some of the finest efforts produced in the vintage, not only with his top cuvees in Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, but also in the up-and-coming appellation of St Joseph, as well as in Condrieu (where his Coteaux du Chery is one of the finest in the appellation), St Péray and Crozes Hermitage. You can see my thrilled reviews on his 2012 Southern Rhônes in Issue 215. His 2012 whites were all reviewed last year from bottle, but they were included again in the massive tasting at this estate this year, so I opted to include them again. They all showed as good, if not better, than last year. Tasted out of bottle this year, the Le Meal, Pavillon and l’Ermite came in at the top of their barrel reviews from last year, which puts them on par with what was accomplished in 2009 and 2010. That’s shocking to me, but the proof is in the glass, as they say.
Incredibly, I find the quality in the 2013s almost as compelling, and Michel thinks there’s more than one perfect wine in that lineup. His Le Meal and Les Greffieux releases, in particular, seem to have hit another level recently. These will see an extended élevage in barrel, and I suspect a few will still be in barrel next year for my tastings as well. The 2013 whites are some of the finest I’ve ever tasted from him, and they have incredible concentration, depth and length, with beautiful acidity and freshness. Marsanne just doesn’t get any better than what’s put into his le Meal, l’Ermite and de L’Orée cuvees. A wine I think competes at that level (and I’ve had it side by side numerous times) is his Saint Joseph Les Granits Blanc. Unfortunately, it’s now being priced at roughly the same level and falls outside what I would normally classify as value. Nevertheless, it’s a world-class example of Northern Rhône white and will age for two decades or more. However, a wine that’s still a smoking value is his Chante Alouette, and readers wanting to get a small taste of what’s offered by his upper-tier whites need to get a bottle (or more) of the 2012.
Other wines to keep on your radar are his single-vineyard releases from Domaine de Bila Haut in the Roussillon. These are incredible wines and I’ll report on the new releases from here early next year." (WA)
"Vivid gold. Powerful mineral-laced peach nectar and pear aromas, with complicating notes of vanilla, honey and musky flowers. Round, fleshy and expansive, offering potent pit fruit and anise flavors and a bracing lick of lemon zest. Nicely blends richness and vivacity and finishes with impressive clarity and outstanding spicy persistence. " (VM)
Unlike Burgundy and Bordeaux, the Rhône does not have an official cru (vineyard) classification system. There are, however, lieux-dits, “named places” or place names that denote vineyard sites and plots within each appellation. Chapoutier owns some of the most famous plots in the Rhône, including 34 hectares within the tiny Hermitage appellation. This collection of highly sought after wines is coined "Selections Parcellaires". These exceptional wines are created organically and biodinamically and imported to the United States once per year.
Le Méal, a broader swath of the hill at a slightly higher elevation (150-200 meters) faces slightly more to the east. It is composed of chalk and alluvial gravelly soil rather than granite, and produces a wine of greater perfume, whether red (Syrah) or white (Marsanne). Again, the small production from a 1.37 hectare site of the nearly century-old vines, up to 550 cases for the red and 300 of the rare white, is reserved for Sélection Parcellaire labeling. Destemming and long macerations are the keys to suppleness and grace even as a young wine, though long cellaring will reward the patient taster. Le Méal owes its official “lieu dit,” in English "place name" to the old French word meaning "the best.”