Braille on the Label: A Chapoutier Pioneering Moment

In early 2016, M. Chapoutier purchased Château des Ferrages, located in Provence between Aix-en-Provence and Saint-Maximin near the commune of Pourcieux. Ferrages produces Côtes-de-Provence AOP and Côtes-de-Provence Saint-Victoire AOP wines, including a portfolio of red, white, and rosé wines.

Rhone Vineyard, Rhone Valley, Rhone wine, French wine
Chapoutier Croix de Bois – Châteauneuf du Pape Vineyard. Courtesy: M Chapoutier

I wrote about the acquisition for Provence WineZine, where I described Chapoutier as follows:

Chapoutier is a winemaking powerhouse known for biodynamique practices, a wide variety of wines, and unfailing attention to capturing terroir. Maison M. Chapoutier has made wine for over 200 years and now, under the direction of Michel Chapoutier, owns vineyards in France (in Alsace, Rhône Valley, and Roussillon), Portugal, and Australia and produces an extensive number of wines, particularly in the Rhône Valley. In the Rhône Valley, Chapoutier produces wine from over 20 AOPs, spanning from the acclaimed Côte-Rotie in the north to Tavel in the south.

It isn’t often that I use the word powerhouse – it seems to imply a lack of nuance, a strong-arm essence – but when one looks closely at Chapoutier it might make more sense to adjust the word slightly to innovation house.

Braille on the Label
Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Crozes-Hermitage, Luberon
All bottles from M Chapoutier have a label imprinted with Braille. Credit: Jill Barth

Covering the Rhône Valley means covering Chapoutier’s remarkable reach and indisputable quality. From Lyon in the north to the Mediterranean Sea in the south, Chapoutier farms vineyards in stunning capacity. The family motto is “Fac et Spera”, do and hope. The balance between action and spirit is relevant. Take the Chapoutier label for example – it reveals itself in print and in Braille – the tactile language in which characters are felt by the fingertips rather than seen by the eye.

There is a reason for this, beyond Chapoutier’s efforts to make their wine to accessible to all. Symbolically, I am fascinated by the inclusion of the sense of touch in the entirely sensual process of wine (a package of taste, smell, and sight is loaded in spades in a single glass of wine).

Paris street signs, Paris, France, Sizeranne
In the 7th, find Rue Maurice de la Sizeranne. Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Mu

The inspiration came from a man called Maurice de la Sizeranne, whose family once owned land that is now farmed by Chapoutier from which a single-vineyard wine under the Sizeranne name is produced. de la Sizeranne was born in Tain (the home of Chapoutier), the child of a vigneron. While playing during his youth he was injured, and this cost him his vision at the age of nine. During his lifetime he influenced the practice of communication via Braille immeasurably through his invention of an abbreviated Braille system. To Chapoutier, it made sense to honor de la Sizeranne with the adoption of Braille on every label.

In 1996 the project began, the first of its kind in the industry. At the time, the prospect of a Braille label seemed extraordinarily expensive. In an act of innovation, Michel Chapoutier repurposed a Heildeberg printing press in such a fashion that glue filled in holes and made a functional braille label. It was cheap, effective, and sustainable – a decades-old, out-of-use press found a new function. Currently, all of Chapoutier’s bottles include the Braille label.

Wines to Try and Touch

Les Meysonniers Crozes-Hermitage 2015 > This wine is made of Syrah, as all Northern Rhône red wines are. The grapes come from 25-year-old vines, slightly south sloping, all hand-harvested and biodynamically farmed. Crozes-Hermitage is the largest Northern Rhône cru. Wind is a player here – if it comes from the north it brings cool freshness (or cold, in winter); when it blows from the south it can bring harsh storms and heat in the summer. Croze-Hermitage wines can age beautifully or be enjoyed young. Expect red fruits and florals, with leather and spice after a few years of cellar time.

French road trip, passport, French travel, trip to France
Châteauneuf-du-Pape in France’s Southern Rhône Valley. Credit: Jill Barth

Le Bernardine Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2015 > Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a southern Rhône cru – one of the most recognizable in France as a former papal residence and home of the AOC concept. 2015 is a legendary vintage for the Rhône, possibly one of the best in over 50 years, according to many winemakers and writers. 14 grape varieties (some have multiple color variations) are approved, but dominating the scene are Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvèdre – the components of this wine. CDP can be complex with darker fruits and an experience of spice; these wines won’t let you down.

What grapes are in CDP, Chateauneuf du Pape, Rhone grape varieties, red wine, white wine, Rasteau, Domaine de Beaurenard
Domaine de Beaurenard in Châteauneuf-du-Pape displays the 14 grape varietals permitted by the AOC. Some grapes have color variations. Credit: Jill Barth

 

La Ciboise Luberon 2015 > The Luberon is often considered picture-perfect Provence. Peter Mayle lived here and many vacationers find peace and beauty in the hill towns of the region. The eastern-most Rhône appellation, Luberon is in the département of Vaucluse and includes the Luberon regional nature reserve, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This wine is comprised of the classic Provence blanc varietals Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, Ugni Blanc and Roussanne. Expect white florals and freshness with a satisfying mouthfeel.

More Rhône coverage on L’Occasion.
More biodynamic coverage on L’Occasion.
The French Winophiles

This month Liz from What’s in that Bottle hosts our French #Winophiles exploration featuring the wines of the Rhône Valley and M. Chapoutier. Join us Saturday morning, March 17 at 10 a.m. CST on Twitter. Just use #Winophiles to find us. Each writer prepared a story to share, all of them required reading during the month of March:

Gwendolyn Alley at Wine Predator tells us about “Duck à l’Orange with M. Chapoutier’s Biodynamic, Organic Rhone Wines”

Here on L’Occasion we cover “Braille on the Label: A Chapoutier Pioneering Moment”

J.R. Boynton from Great Big Reds writes about “The Dark Side of Syrah, with Domaine Fondreche Persia 2012  (Ventoux)”

Jeff Burrows from Food Wine Click shares “Northern Rhone Wines and My Steak Tartare Disaster”

David Crowley at Cooking Chat at tells us about “London Broil Steak with Châteauneuf-du-Pape”

Rob Frisch at Odd Bacchus writes about “Return to the Rhône”

Susannah Gold at Avvinare writes about “Rhône Gems from Chapoutier in Chateauneuf, du Pape, Crozes-Hermitage, and Luberon”

Nicole Ruiz Hudson at Somm’s Table tells her story of “Cooking to the Wine: Les Vins de Vienne Gigondas with Gratinéed Shepherd’s Pie”

Camilla Mann from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares a post on “Sober Clams + a French Syrah”

Jane Niemeyer at Always Ravenous shares “Bison Burger Paired with Northern Rhône Syrah”

Martin Redmond Enofylz at shares “A Taste of The House of Chapoutier”

Rupal Desai Shankar at Syrah Queen writes about “Chapoutier: King of the Rhône”

Lauren Walsh at The Swirling Dervish writes about “France’s Rhône Valley: Mountains, Sea, Wind, and Wine”

Michelle Williams at Rockin Red Blog writes about “Maison M. Chapoutier: Expressing Terroir Through Biodynamics”

Wines are made available to L’Occasion as media samples. All opinions are my own.
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24 Comments Add yours

  1. I always wondered if Louis Braille hadn’t been French if this would have happened, but the true reason for the Braille is touching. Beautifully written piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing the braille label story in depth! I only knew the highlights before this.

    Like

  3. Odd Bacchus says:

    I’ll second Food Wine Click — it was fascinating to read about what inspired the braille labels. Such a great story.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. culinarycam says:

    My research on the Braille label gave a slightly different inspiration. I wonder if it was two-fold! In any case, I think it’s a great story.

    Like

  5. Cooking Chat says:

    I’ve been a fan of Chapoutier for awhile, fun to pick up some new info on them here.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As I’ve said before your writing is always an inspiration Jill! A wonderful read! Thanks for sharing the braille story!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wendy says:

    Thank you so much for sharing the background on the braille label. Very interesting article.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Such an innovative producer. Thanks for taking us deeper into the braille labels.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “The balance between action and spirit” – such a relevant statement to many situations in life. Thanks for taking a wine story and broadening it to a larger theme. One reason I always enjoy your posts!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nicole Ruiz Hudson says:

    Love Chapoutier. It’s wonderful to think of the braille on the labels as another level of experiencing wine in sensory/sensual way. Thanks for that point of consideration as I don’t think it would have occurred to me in that way.

    Like

  11. What a interesting story behind the braille on the Chapoutier wine labels.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      I love getting a piece of history!

      Like

  12. Such a thoughtful article. The story of the braille on the label is so interesting. Chapoutier’s story is one of terroir, tradition, heritage and determination.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      Thanks Rupal! This was a fun month!

      Like

  13. Dame Wine says:

    Nice to know the story behind the idea of using Braille on the Chapoutier bottles. Thank you for sharing Jill!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      Thanks Catherine!

      Like

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