2008 Chapoutier Cotes du Roussillon Villages Bila Haut Occultum Lapidem

Year: 2008
Appellation: Languedoc-Roussillon
Country: France
Wine Spectator: 91
Wine Advocate: 92
Red Wine
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"Offers mocha and chocolate notes in this suave, full-bodied red. Quite creamy, with supple spicy notes that linger on the focused finish, backed up by a pretty array of fine tannins. Drink now through 2014. 10,000 cases made." (WS)

"The Bila-Haut 2008 Cotes du Roussillon Villages Latour de France Occultum Lapidem - as usual, a roughly two-to-one blend of Grenache and Syrah vinified in large casks and tank - mingles pungently resinous herbs, tart-edged fresh black fruits, and beef marrow in a context of textural richness yet surprising levity and uncanny sheer refreshment for a red wine. "That's typical for the 2008 vintage after all," remarks Troullier of this wine's freshness, but I am also amazed to realize that it harbors a more-or-less normal alcohol for this cuvee of 14.5%, even though it acts as though there could hardly be much more than 13%. Persistently high-toned evocations of flowers and garrigue herbs as well as a mouthwatering salinity add to the allure and the finish here will leave your tongue delightedly tingling and panting for repeat sips. The pleasure from this amazing value should be replicable for at least the next half dozen years.

Michel Chapoutier's Roussillon domaine - for further details on which, consult my report in issue 183 - has taken on considerable additional acreage since I filed that last report, resulting in among other things a fascinating white cuvee in what had previously been an all-red portfolio, and the inclusion of more fruit - in black as well as white - from spectacularly-situated high-elevation, granite-rich, late-ripening sites in Lesquerde, well to the west of Latour-de-France. Gilles Troullier continues to direct vinification as well as viticulture (here biodynamic) like the seasoned maestro that he is. With few exceptions, the wines sing with clarity, purity, and complexity, not to mention performing well above what on the basis of price (save for that of the "v.i.t." cuvee) would deceptively appear to be their station. (For Chapoutier's wines from Banyuls, see under his own name in this report, as that is how those are labeled.)" (WA)

Winery Notes:
The Roussillon history is complex and compelling, and has at times been quite violent. Terraces on stony soil, with a rich geological background and a climate that man has adopted for his crops. The Roussillon was bound to attract Michel Chapoutier’s attention. He decided to locate his domain at Latour de France. Black and brown schist to give the wine a solar touch. Gneiss for minerality and freshness. Combination of Limestone and chalk for strength and balance. Three varieties of grapes grow on the land covered by Domaine de BILA-HAUT. Syrah, with its savage aromas of scrub and spice. Grenache, so full of surprises. And Carignan, for mineral wines with crispy tannic notes. The “Vignes de BILA-HAUT” and the “Domaine de BILA-HAUT Occultum Lapidem” are the main expressions of this terroir. However, Michel Chapoutier wanted to obtain more via this site, to seize the quintessence. It took him six years of standing back, observing and analysing to give life to this precious and exceptional wine called “V.I.T.” which stands for “Visitare Interiore Terrae”. Precious by its blending. Grenache grapes from 70 year old vines, grown on a magnificent plot in the heart of the ‘Garrigue’ scrubland. Enthusiasm, richness and complexity. Then Syrah grapes, ripened slowly on vines grown on clayey limestone soil giving powerful, silky-smooth tannins, and blended with Syrah grapes grown on the company’s most beautiful schist based land. An elegant bouquet and a sophisticated flavour in the mouth. Also exceptional because it is bold, like the people who gave this land its identity. The story is going on in 2008 and is now taking place near the village of Lesquerde. There, the land is made of high limestone based cliffs and dry soils over which the “tramontane” wind blows... Then Michel Chapoutier’s interest for this region rises again and new wine is born: “L’esquerda”. This outstanding wine is mainly based on beautiful Syrah and Grenache grapes from the nicest granitic terroirs. “L’esquerda”, meaning “the fault in the rock” in Catalan, is the faithful expression of a personality, of the identity of a region. Another discovery by Michel Chapoutier.

Agly Brothers In the middle of the 1990s an encounter engaged a new dialogue with the certainty that great things were possible. The Australian adventures of Maison M. Chapoutier was discussing his passionate interest in his exchanges with fellow winemaker, Ron Laughton. Very soon a key idea emerged : terroir. An almost revolutionary notion in Australia. The idea was not to cultivate but rather to accompany, in compliance with the rule of biodynamics, which allows the soil to express itself. They decided to give it a try. Several years later the Heathcote vineyard, in Victoria, revealed La Pléïade. The first vintage produced by Michel & Corinne Chapoutier with Ron & Elva Laughton ; But the adventure was not going to stop there. The Agly Valley, Roussillon. An old plot of land, on a hillside. Rough, almost hostile. But Michel Chapoutier decided that it too could also generate wine. He was also keen on connecting Ron Laughton with the project, on behald of their friendship and to return the favour. So the two “brothers” combined Carignan, Grenache and Shiraz. In 2004 the first Agly Brothers vintage finally sealed the links between the two establishments, and at the same time, between the two hemispheres.