Chapoutier Hermitage Blanc Chante Alouette

hermitage-blancFrance, $76

Michel Chapoutier has become one of the giants of the wine world and his early and large-scale adoption of biodynamics in winemaking is like Nixon in China big for the wine industry. What’s amazing about Chapoutier is that they’ve been able to bring such artisanal quality control to an enourmous wine operation. You’ll be reading a lot about him in the coming month—he’s what amount to the keynote speaker at be this year’s Vancouver International Wine Festival—but unlike other titans, there’s a Chapoutier wine whether you’re spending $15 or $750. Try asking for a $15 wine from Angelo Gaja and see how far you get.

Choosing a wine to highlight here is a trick—there’s just so many worthy candidates. For me it comes down to the question: what do you look for in a wine? It’s a simple question that elicits answers that anything but. Usually it’s some combination of taste, value, prestige, but when it comes right down to it, there an x-factor that I’m looking for, that frisson of excitement as to what is to come when the cork (or cap) comes off. This week’s wine has that spark in spades. Hermitage is one of the benchmark wines of the Rhone, but Hermitage Blanc (its pale-complexioned brethren, hardly gets any notice). Not a lot of it is made and the stuff that is is relatively expensive. But what you get in this bottle is something you don’t get elsewhere—an amazing amalgam of a waxy texture cut with citrus notes, and more than any wine I can recall, a pure expression of quince. It works well in winter—this is the antithesis of a patio wine in the very best sense.

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