Maison Chapoutier, Chante-Alouette, AOC/AOP Hermitage, Northern Rhone, France, 2012
Marsanne – a tendency to flabbiness from modest acidity, but picking early can help; a variety excluded from the more southerly appellation of Chateauneuf-du-Papes’ approved varieties of clairette, grenache blanc, picpoul and roussanne, no doubt owing to achievable acidity in the warmer more Mediterranean influenced climate.
This wine: Varietal marsanne, from a mix of Hermitage hill parcels; 10 months ageing in 65% 2-3 year old demi-muids (600 litre oak barrel typical of the Rhone), and 35% stainless steel; natural cork closure, 15%, BBR, about £50 (2014)
WSET style tasting note
Appearance – clear and bright, medium intensity gold, showing tears.
Nose – clean on the nose, pronounced intensity, developing, with rich aromas of baked apple, over-ripe yellow apple, ripe grapefruit, dried apricot and white peach, quince, pineapple skin, mango, a touch of anise, honeysuckle and fragrant apple blossom, honeyed and buttery notes, dried apple slices, dried stone fruits, spice – a little cinnamon.
Palate – a dry wine, medium acidity, high alcohol, a full body, a smooth oily texture with a low-key grip, medium (+) intensity, with flavours of over-ripe stone-fruit – apricot in particular, baked apple, creme brulee, dried citrus peel, warm honey. A long length with a clean quite alcoholic finish, with a slight bitterness on the end.
Quality – An outstanding quality wine, with very finely balanced acidity with high alcohol, which adds a little apparent sweetness in mid-palate, and with the strong intensity of flavour; a concentrated wine with rich flavours and a high level of complexity from wood and bottle ageing, with well-integrated oak, with ripe fruit of all hues, through floral and tropical to dried fruits, witnessed by the long length.
Readiness for drinking/potential for ageing: can drink now, but has potential for ageing. A sound structure, complex and concentrated, already quite developed, but there is room for positive evolution, with more honeyed dried fruit and nuttiness, over 2-5 years.