The Rhone region of France is one which is deeply influenced by tradition. With a wine history which stretches back to well over a thousand years, and a consistent degree of excellence demonstrated by their wineries, producing wines which have shaped the drink as we know it, it isn’t difficult to see why tradition is held in such high regard. What is unusual then, is when you find a Rhone winery which, while producing excellent, classic Rhone wines, is also willing to seek out new opportunities and break from the norm somewhat.
One such winery is Maison Chapoutier. The Chapoutier family are a proper, old Rhone clan, who operate on land which has been passed down from father to son since the end of the 18th century. The winery was set up on the ancestral site in 1879, when a set of heritage vineyards were bought and new vines were sown, thus starting the business which continues to this day. The wineries fortunes were mixed, and for much of its history it didn’t make any great waves with their traditional, standard Hermitage wines which were probably very similar to those made elsewhere in the village. However, in the 1980s, the latest generation of Chapoutiers, Michel and Marc, took over the business from their father with a renewed sense of passion and keenness to make their voices heard and their wine tasted across the world.
The results were highly positive, and the Rhone wines of Maison Chapoutier quickly gained recognition for their excellence and complexity. The success of their home produce prompted the Chapoutier brothers to expand their family business, and they soon set their sights on becoming an international company, spreading their unique style - blending Rhone tradition with global sophistication - elsewhere around the world. They bought vineyards in Portugal, and then Australia, and decided to break with tradition completely and turn their farming techniques over to the biodynamic method, which emphasizes using natural cycles of the moon, enriching the soils with various natural components, and trying to be completely harmonious with nature. As such, all of their vineyards around the world are completely organic and biodynamic, and all of their wines are single-varietal - another unusual feature at odds with their traditional roots, where blending is very much the norm. The results more than speak for themselves, however, and Marc and Michel Chapoutier continue to receive awards and recognition for their wines, as they seek to expand further and continue spreading their message.