France > Crozes-Hermitage > M. Chapoutier Les Meysonniers

M. Chapoutier Les Meysonniers

Country: France
Region: Crozes-Hermitage
Producer: M. Chapoutier
Grape variety: 100% Syrah
Vintage: 2009
Found at: Co-op Wines and Spirits, Willow Park Wines and Spirits, Superstore (or see Liquor Connect and enter your postal code)
Price: $21.99

About the region: Although Syrah aka Shiraz is most commonly associated with Australia these days, its origins reside in the Rhone valley, where (most likely) it descended from several indigenous, wild grape varieties. The Northern Rhone valley in particular has been known for its high-quality Syrah as far back as Roman times. Over the centuries it became so popular that other regions (most notably Bordeaux and Burgundy) even used small portions of Syrah from the Northern Rhone to boost their wines during difficult years in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Some of the best Syrah in the world comes from a particular hill, towering over the town of Tain on the bank of the Rhone river, called Hermitage. Due to its fame, wines from Hermitage will set you back at least $100 (and considerably more than that for most). So if we want to get a a sense for Syrah’s character from vineyards where this grape was first grown, we have to travel down the hill and consider the flatter lands around the hill. This region of the Northern Rhone valley is Crozes-Hermitage. Less prestigious than Hermitage, but much more affordable.

A quick note then about Australian Shiraz vs Northern Rhone’s Syrah: Australian Shiraz is known for being soft and full-bodied with lots of dark, ripe fruit characteristics. Syrah from the Northern Rhone on the other hand tends to be closer to medium bodied with higher tannins, showing a more complex combination of black fruit, spicy (peppery), and earthy characteristics. These differences can be explained by differences in climate and soils, as well as in vineyard and winemaking practices. Although there is clearly variation within each region as well, the general characteristics of Syrah/Shiraz across the two regions provides a great example of how the same grape variety can produce wines with rather different characteristics.

About the wine:

At age 24, Michel Chapoutier went to have a chat with his grandfather, who at that time still owned a majority stake in the Chapoutier wine business. Even though he had only been working in the family business for a few years, he had come to realize that the quality of the family’s wines (made by his father at the time) was well below their potential. He indicated to his grandfather that he would leave the family business unless he could have a majority stake in the business (including his father’s minority stake) and thereby, control in the winery. His grandfather agreed, which resulted in a new beginning for the Chapoutier business (as well as Michel and his father not talking for quite some time).

Over the next 10 years, Michel vastly improved the quality of the Chapoutier wines while buying additional vineyard land and tripling production. Historically, wines from the Northern Rhone had been blends from different vineyards in each appellation (sub-region). Michel’s vision was to start producing “pictures of the terroir” instead; that is, wines that reflect the unique characteristics of each of the individual vineyards. His single-vineyard bottlings have since become some of the Northern Rhone’s most renowned wines. The mention of L’Ermite, Le Méal, and Le Pavillon are enough to make any Northern Rhone fan’s mouth water (as a side note, if anyone is still looking for a belated birthday present for me, the L’Ermite is only $450…). Meanwhile, Michel continues to hold strong opinions about wine making, whether it pertains to Riesling’s characteristic whiff of petrol or the natural wine movement.

The Meysonniers comes from south-facing, gentle slopes. It’s hand harvested and matured in concrete tanks (so it doesn’t touch oak). So there are no oaky or vanilla-y aromas to be found here. Instead, earthy and peppery notes dominate, which makes this wine such a good example of Syrah from France’s Northern Rhone region. There are notes of red cherry and blackcurrant. The acidity makes this wine very food-friendly (think nicely-peppered steak).

In Susanne’s words: It’s okay.

For an interesting experiment, pick up a bottle of your favorite Australian Shiraz and the Meysonniers, open both up, and taste them side by side. Both are made from the exact same grape variety, so will have characteristics in common, but you will find that both are very different in some aspects as well. Cheers!

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1 Comment

  1. Great post!! I have a few of these bottles at home and am a big fan of the wine — it’s my go-to Superstore purchase when I can’t decide what to buy. The 09 in particular got huge critics’ scores (relatively speaking), but as you say above, I don’t know if it’s an earth-shattering bottle so much as a great representation of the grape in the region. Always fun to buy a $20 bottle that has a decade of ageability too! Cheers!

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