M. Chapoutier Saint-Joseph Deschants Blanc 2005
The history of the Chapoutier family stretches back to the early nineteenth century when current owner Michel Chapoutier’s great-, great-, great-grandfather Marius purchased an estate and some vineyards in the now famous village of Tain l’Hermitage in the Northern Rhône Valley. Marius Chapoutier made history in the region when he became the first grape grower there to vinify his own fruit. Marius had tasted wines other winemakers produced using his fruit and he realized that something was lost in translation, so to speak. He knew that he owned some of the best growing sites in the appellation and he believed — rightly — that the grapes grown in his vineyards could produce long-lived world-class wines. In a move unusual at the time, he decided that he should make the wine himself. Not only did the quality of the wines increase greatly, but this move provided the capital to expand the Chapoutiers’ already legendary estate.
A visionary and pioneer in biodynamic winemaking, his restless energy and unconditional commitment to quality have produced tremendous success, with the most 90+ point ratings of all Rhône producers and 16 "100 point" rated wines.
Spanning the longest stretch of river in the northern Rhône—from Condrieu in the north, to Cornas in the south—the heart of St.-Joseph lies directly across the Rhône River from Hermitage. While its soils are basically the same as Hermitage: granite, supplemented by sand and gravel, its east facing slope receives less sunlight than Hermitage, which causes less overall berry ripening on its Syrah vines. However, some of the best of them can rival any fine expression of Hermitage, Cote-Rotie or Cornas with concentrated black fruits, dark spices, crushed rock and violets. A general advantage of the region is that its Syrahs typically don’t need as much time in the bottle compared to a Cote-Rotie or Hermitage and are much easier on the bank account!
A textbook St.-Joseph red is firm with a core of minerality that is enhanced by savory and peppery qualities. Aromas and flavors of smoke, olives, herbs, and violets are common; its wines are dense in red and black fruit.
St.-Joseph is also a source of fine northern Rhône white wine. Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne grow well here and can be blended or made into single varietal wines. St.-Joseph whites are full and silky with citrus, pear and pineapple flavors and a rich bouquet reminiscent of honeysuckle, toasted nuts, spice and caramel.
One of the star whites of the Rhône Valley and ubiquitous throughout southern France, historically vignerons have favored Marsanne for its hardy and productive vines but it is not merely a workhorse variety. It actually produces some of the finest and most age-worthy whites available in the world today. Marsanne can make a fruity and delicious single varietal wine as well as a serious, full-bodied version with amazing aging potential. Its best examples come from the northern Rhone appellations of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and St.-Joseph, where it is also blended with Roussanne. Throughout the south of France, Marsanne is often found in blends with Viognier, Rolle and even Chardonnay.
In the Glass
Marsanne has a great deal of depth and texture. Common characteristics include sweet pear, white peach, roasted nuts, white flowers and spice. When aged well it can have an attractive, silky and somewhat oily texture.
Lobster, Alaskan King Crab, grilled shrimp, any pork, chicken or veal will be delicious with Marsanne or Marsanne blends. You can also try it with cream sauces and spicy dishes!
Some of the oldest Marsanne vines in the entire world exist not in France but in Australia, in the Victoria region (in southeast Australia where the climate is relatively cool). Settlers called the grape “white Hermitage” and planted it in the mid to late 1800s.