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M. Chapoutier Vineyard Tour and Tasting

By Jodi Bart, October 22, 2011  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Jodi Bart
Jodi Bart is the Austin-based blogger behind Tasty Touring, who won a trip to Europe through our Foodie Fantasy Food Blogger Video Contest. She’ll be sharing some of her adventures in this 2-part blog feature. I recently returned from a fabulous European vacation for two, thanks to Whole Food Market’s Foodie Fantasy Food Blogger Video Contest. The trip, an Intrepid Travel tour from Berlin to Paris, included visits with Whole Foods Market local partners, including one to the M. Chapoutier vineyard and tasting room in France’s Rhone Valley. My traveling partner on this adventure was Adam, my boyfriend of almost three years, and now fiancé after we got engaged at the end of the tour(!). Adam and I arrived at M. Chapoutier a half hour earlier than our 2 p.m. appointment, and the tasting room, along with most of the shops in Tain l’Hermitage, was closed for lunch. We wandered to a local sports bar and ordered “deux café.” We drank so much espresso while traveling in France — in the morning, after a big meal, to avoid an afternoon slump, etc. — that we suffered much more from lack of caffeine than we did from jet lag when we got back to our normal daily routine. Once we drank and paid for the espresso, we headed back to the tasting room to meet our tour guide, Yoko. As we walked to the vineyards, we talked with Yoko, who was born in Tokyo, about how she ended up in small town France. She worked as a trainer for Starbucks when the company first came to Japan, and she gained an interest and appreciation for wine through her experience with coffee. Yoko told us the history of M. Chapoutier, a company that has been family owned since 1808. Michele Chapoutier, the CEO since 1990, is passionate about making organic wine that expresses the character of the soil (terroir). Given the name, I asked if every family member’s name begins with the letter “M.” Apparently, yes. It is a family tradition, and Michele’s children are named Maxime and Matilda. While M. Chapoutier has vineyards in France’s Rhone Valley, Alsace and Rousillon, they also grow grapes in Portugal and Australia. In fact, Chapoutier’s fascination with the terroir of Australia was apparent in his collection of beautiful Aboriginal art decorating the tasting rooms. Yoko told us that M. Chapoutier practices biodynamic farming techniques. This includes treating the vines with herbs instead of chemicals, working with the moon calendar to decide when to trim and treat, and using vines that are 50 to 100 years old that produce a smaller harvest but more concentrated flavor. We headed back to the main building, where Yoko had set up a tasting of four white wines, followed by four reds. Upon seeing a bottle up close for the first time, we were struck that the label was in Braille. The design was inspired by a friend of the Chapoutier family, a former vineyard owner who also invented the first abbreviated version of Braille. All M. Chapoutier bottles have been marked in Braille since 1996, making them easy to spot when you are shopping at Whole Foods Market! I admit that I was pleasantly surprised to see such forward-thinking practices and ideas about wine-making from an over two-hundred-year-old family-owned business. The labels are also a great marketing idea, as it’s easier to remember to pick out the French wine with the bumpy label than to try to remember the name. What are some of your favorite wines and what makes them stand out to you? Is it the taste, the price, how it was made? How do you recognize them among the sea of bottles? Is there something distinctive about the shape of the bottle, the label? Check out more stories from Jodi’s European Foodie Fantasy vacation on her blog, Tasty Touring. You can watch her one-minute contest winning video here. All of the images are courtesy of Jodi’s fiancé, Adam Holzband.