Parker’s Greatest Chapoutier Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon To Date
In the Rhône Valley, three names rise above the rest: Guigal, Beaucastel, and Chapoutier, all members of Robert Parker’s 100-point club.
While Guigal is heralded for its Syrah-based “La-La” Côte-Rôties and Beaucastel for its world-class “Hommage à Jacques Perrin,” enologist Michel Chapoutier is best known for the rich, wild-berry sleekness of his reds from both the Northern and Southern Rhône.
In 1999, 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.
In a move that surprised most in Hermitage, Michel purchased the estate, determined to bring it back to life.
Sixteen years later, Chapoutier would release the drop-dead gorgeous 2015 Bila-Haut, a bottle that reminded us and The Wine Advocate of just how extraordinary and CHEAP southern French reds can be when the vineyards are farmed to perfection — and the cellar protocol is of the likes of Michel Chapoutier.
The vines of Bila-Haut are planted on neatly tended terraces. The head-trained vines are allowed to sprawl, growing out instead of up to protect themselves from summer gusts that can surpass 100 mph. When you sip the 2015 Bila-Haut out of an oversized stem and allow the wine to slowly unwind and unfold, you taste the place — the brown and black schist that gives the wine what Michel calls its “solar touch,” the gneiss that provides minerality and cut, and the strength, balance, and structure of limestone.
Michel Chapoutier’s 2015 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut is brilliant purple to the edge. Beautifully delineated aromatically, unveiling a mouthwatering assemblage of dark red and black fruits, plum, sweet herbes de Provence, and black olives. Rich, juicy, and polished on the attack like all of Chapoutier’s great reds, texturally rich on the mid-palate and loaded with a dense mix of fresh red fruits, red currant, and white pepper, finishing with the fine vibrancy imparted by these rugged schist soils. Drink NOW (impossible not to), or lay down until 2022.
91-93 points. Parker’s “greatest vintage of this cuvee to date.” Just $13.99. Shipping included on cases — and this is an ABSOLUTE CASE-BUY!