Wine of the Week

Michel Chapoutier's biodynamic wines offer a reasonable introduction to the Rhône

Wine of the Week

M. Chapoutier Côtes-du-Rhône Belleruche Blanc and Rouge

Michel Chapoutier is an interesting winemaker. Since taking over the family business 19 years ago, he has banned all chemicals, fertilizers, and sprays from his vineyards, and he's also converted the estate vineyards to both biodynamic and organic farming. He has pioneered the use of natural yeasts and switched his production over to making only unfiltered wines. He must be on to something, because he's won hundreds of awards.

Though Chapoutier makes wines up into the $500-a-bottle range, he also makes some that are appropriate for our current financial lot. Both are Côtes-du-Rhône wines, although Chapoutier has decided to forgo the Côtes-du-Rhône label and forge his own brand called Belleruche. The wine comes in both white and red versions, and both offer an excellent introduction to the wonderful wines of the Rhône at a very reasonable price (most places in town have it for $12 or less).

The white version is blended from White Grenache, Clairette, and Bourboulenc grapes. It's a pale wine with a light texture and bracing green-apple acidity. By itself, the wine can taste thin, but match it with some Pure Luck soft goat cheese or some lightly sautéed catfish with a beurre blanc sauce, and its lively flavors will jump out. The red is made from a combination of Grenache and Syrah, and it offers an amazing amount of red-berry fruit and black-pepper aromas for its cost.

Chapoutier also makes sure that the names and information about each wine are printed in Braille on every label on every bottle. I'm amazed more wineries haven't copied him.

The Belleruche wines are available at the Austin Wine Merchant, Central Market, Spec's, and several Twin Liquors.

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M. Chapoutier Côtes-du-Rhône Belleruche Blanc and Rouge, M. Chapoutier Côtes-du-Rhône Belleruche Blanc, M. Chapoutier Côtes-du-Rhône Belleruche Rouge, Michel Chapoutier, Côtes-du-Rhône

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