M. Chapoutier 2006 Ermitage L’Ermite

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Adherence to tradition does not necessarily yield quality. Despite the rich oenological heritage of the Rhône Valley, during the postwar decades many of its vintners placed greater emphasis on the quantity of wine produced than on the quality. During the so-called Rhône winemaking renaissance of the 1980s and 1990s, these vintners began to recognize that demand for premium wines was on the rise and, accordingly, modernized their operations to realize the full potential of their vines. Foremost among these forward-thinking vintners was Michel Cha­poutier, who revitalized his family’s company, founded in 1808, by applying biodynamic farming techniques in the vineyards and more refined winemaking practices in the cellars. The success of his efforts can be tasted in the exceptional M. Chapoutier 2006 Ermitage L’Ermite (www.chapoutier.com, $350), an entrancingly complex ruby-red wine that exudes smoky aromas of wild sage, wild berries, and sandalwood. This lush vintage unfurls on the palate with flavors of black cherry, sweet tobacco, and ripe olive layered over firmly structured tannins.

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