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Published:  23 July, 2008

by James Aufenast

Michel Chapoutier is to begin a joint venture in New Zealand with two local wineries. The French winemaker, with prominent domaines in the Rhne, said that the North Island of New Zealand had tremendous potential for Syrah. Chapoutier is also looking at working with winemakers in Corsica and, at a later stage, Lebanon. Currently, Chapoutier has a venture in Australia, Mount Benson, and two more under development. A spokesperson for Mentzendorff, UK agents for Chapoutier, would not say when wines from these projects would be on the market. Chapoutier also controls the vinification of, and often cultivates, properties in Provence and the Pays d'Oc. Speaking at a tasting on 17 July, Chapoutier also said he thought Australia was better positioned for an AOC-type system than the US, and was impressed with clonal selection in Australia. "Even in 50 years, the US will be a long way from an AOC system. That is because [UC] Davis has no agronomy knowledge. It is obsessed with winemaking. Adelaide has a great knowledge of agronomy. It is understandable that they don't believe in the soil in California, because they have been working for years with a five- to six-metre deep top level of soil, which does not affect the flavour of the wine like the layer beneath." Chapoutier said that one way in which the soil has an effect on his wine is through the minerals that are taken up by the plant, and which then add more complex flavours during fermentation. He added that the 2000 Rhne vintage was "halfway between the complexity of the 99s and the power of the 98s".