2009 M. Chapoutier Ermitage Blanc Cuvee Le Meal

Year: 2009
Appellation: Rhone
Country: France
Wine Spectator: 98
Wine Advocate: 98
Vinous Media: 94
White Wine
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"An intense and gorgeous wine, with a rich yet remarkably racy core of star fruit, fennel, anise, white peach and chamomile flavors that course along, followed by a finish of salted butter and blanched almond. There’s lots of flesh, but also invigorating, almost crunchy acidity buried deeply. Drink now through 2027. 60 cases imported." (WS)

"The 2009 Ermitage Le Meal Blanc (844 cases) offers up aromas and flavors of tomato confit, white peaches, honeysuckle, acacia flowers, licorice and anise. Deep, full-bodied and textured, with superb intensity as well as richness, it is the most exotic, tropical fruit-flavored Ermitage from Chapoutier in 2009. Enjoy it over the next 25-30 years.

As I have written many times, all of these wines are produced from rigidly cultivated, bio-dynamically managed vineyards. That has been the rule since Michel Chapoutier first took over this firm in the late 1980s. Now, with over 20 years of biodynamic viticulture under his belt, Chapoutier remains committed to this rather radical style of organic farming. He believes the effect is to reduce rot in damp, rainy vintages. Moreover, he has observed that after 10 to 15 years of biodynamic farming, the natural acids tend to be more vivid and the overall pH of the soils (as well as the wines) has dropped. Controversial, outspoken and brutally candid, Chapoutier, who suffers no fools, continues to admirably produce wines that are among the finest in the world and potentially the longest lived. Refusing to acidify, chaptalize, or touch the wines in any way, he clearly wants every wine to capture the very essence of its terroir and vintage personality. In this, he succeeds remarkably. No one has made more effort in resurrecting the once-forgotten backwater appellation of St.-Peray than Michel Chapoutier. Working in conjunction with the famed Michelin three-star restaurant family, the Pics, Chapoutier has produced a sensational 2010 Gamme Pic and Chapoutier St.-Peray, and the first single-vineyard St.-Peray, the 2010 Lieu-Dit Peyrolles St.-Peray, which is one of the greatest St.-Perays I have ever tasted. This appellation is all steep hillside vineyards planted in pure, decomposed granite soils, not dissimilar from Hermitage, but they are located on the other side of the Rhone, facing the city of Valence. The single-vineyard wines, or selections parcellaires, 2010 whites are absolutely amazing, with production levels ranging from 300 to 700 or 800 cases of each cuvee. These wines are for true connoisseurs, as they are expensive and meant for long, long evolutions, but they capture the essence of a vintage and terroir as well as any wines in the world. As for the selections parcellaires of 2010 reds, Chapoutier likes this vintage almost as much as 2009, but feels it is very different, emphasizing more acidity and minerality, whereas 2009 is a combination of pure power, concentration and great potential longevity. Michel Chapoutier considers the 2009s, which are all in bottle, to be among the greatest wines he has ever produced, equaling his finest wines of 2006, 2003, 1999, 1990 and 1989 (his debut year)." (WA)

"Vivid gold. Tropical fruits, honeysuckle and ginger on the highly fragrant nose. Lush and round in the mouth, offering honey-accented pineapple and guava flavors and a late kick of zesty spices. Shows an impressive blend of richness and vivacity and finishes with remarkable focus and lingering spiciness. " (IWC)

Winery Notes
Le Méal, a broader swath of the hill at a slightly higher elevation (150-200 meters) faces slightly more easterly. It is composed of chalk and alluvial gravelly soild 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 vines, close to one century old, is reserved for Sélection Parcellaire labeling, up to 550 cases for the red and 300 of the rare white. Again, 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 holds its official "name place" from the old French word meaning "the best."