Master of the Rhône Takes Roussillon To the Next Level
Since the inception of The Wine Advocate, thousands of $100+ bottles have earned at least 94 points from Robert Parker. But how many under-$30 bottles can make the same claim in six consecutive vintages? Your list would have to start with Michel Chapoutier’s extravagant Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Villages Latour de France Occultum Lapidem. The 2015 Occultum Lapidem may well be Chapoutier’s finest effort to date. Lurid ruby color with a complex nose of dark berries, incense, potpourri, and a hint of smoky minerality. Rich, dense, and compact, sleek and suave texturally due to the low pH offered by these flaky schist soils, all of the natural opulence is buttressed by superb acidity and grip. Drink now for its primary-fruit flash, or like all of Chapoutier’s great reds, lay this one down for a decade. $35 on release. Just $25.99, the best price in the U.S.
In 1999, Michel Chapoutier stumbled upon a neglected 185-acre property in the Roussillon. The soils were a rugged mix of flakey schist, gneiss, and clay. Chapoutier was smitten by the wildness of the slopes of the Agly Valley — about as close as French vines get to the Spanish border — and the vineyards bracketed by scrappy brush, sparse trees, and wild herbs. There was a perfume in the air that Michel simply couldn’t get out of his head, a mix of smoky rosemary, thyme, juniper, lavender, and olive. Chapoutier quickly purchased the estate, determined to bring it back to life.
Chapoutier’s pride and joy is his Côtes du Roussillon Villages Latour de France Occultum Lapidem, a luscious mix of 70-year-old-vine, head-trained Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan. In the ripe 2015 vintage, harvest was pushed back to the end of September. That extra hangtime allowed M. Chapoutier to turn out a spellbinding blend that The Wine Advocate claims outpoints all but a few of the greatest names of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Hermitage.