Duck à l’orange with M. Chapoutier’s Biodynamic, Organic Wines

When I heard that the French Winophiles were getting samples “to roam the range of Rhone,” I asked Sue if she was up for making Canard à l’Orange aka Duck à l’orange. We had made it one summer for a twitter tasting, and wow, was it spectacular, and it paired so well with the under $20 Rhone wonders on the table, I could only imagine how well it would go with an M. Chapoutier 2015 – Chateauneuf-du-Pape “La Bernardine” Rouge blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah.

Sure, she said. No problem.

Even on a school night? Clearly she didn’t remember what all went in to making it!

Last time, it was summer, and we weren’t teaching. Plus it was a day when Marsh got off early so Sue prepared the duck, and when he got home from work, Marshall cooked it on the rotisserie outside. Sue made stock, and the sauce included the giblets, and as it was National French Fry Day we cooked them in duck fat… plus a salad Lyonnaise with poached eggs… well it was definitely one of the top five meals we’ve done.

With so much involved, I wasn’t sure whether we should attempt it on a work night but since Sue was game, I ordered and picked up duck from the Ventura Meat Company, Sue and I coordinated ingredients, and on Thursday after work, we went to work.

In That Funny Feeling (1965) Sandra Dee as Joan and her roommate Audrey prepare Duck a l’Orange for Joan’s boyfriend (Bobby Darin), because it’s his favorite dish. Their version uses quite a bit more alcohol than our recipe and it subsequently catches on fire via Audrey’s lit cigarette! She has to order a replacement from a restaurant and pass it off as her own.

We had quite a bit of excitement making our duck as well, including a kitchen fire! My pyrex pan full of boiling hot duck fat couldn’t handle the addition of the cold orange juice and exploded starting a duck fat fire in my oven, sending glass everywhere, and more. (Maybe I should have poured the sauce over the duck instead of in the pan)?Fortunately we were able to salvage the duck and we had enough oranges and other ingredients to make more sauce, but still: what a mess! And what a waste of duck fat! Thank goodness we weren’t trying to do a twitter tasting at the same time and we had a tub of that duck fat in the fridge as well!

We had another, far less calamitous situation, however: Preparing for our dinner, I get out the three wines and the the sheets, and I discover my 2015 Crozes-Hermitage “Les Meysonniers” Rouge is actually BLANC! While there are worse things, and the distributor is sending the correct bottle along, the question is: what to pair and pour? And if we’re going to get the Syrah, why not hold the Marsanne and do both for a dinner at a later date? But will two bottles of wine be enough for 3-5 people and show the range of wines that M. Chapouier produces?

That’s when I remembered I had two more wines from M. Chapoutier from just a bit further south, in the Cotes Du Roussillon. So we decided to do the two wines from the northern part of the Rhone LATER in April for Earth Month, and for this post, do two wines from the Rhone proper, one white and one red, and two from Cotes Du Roussillon in the new Occitanie region, again one white and one red, and to focus on the house of Michel Chapoutier — and the duck! 

First, as environmentalists and eco-activist, our gathering of tasters very much appreciate that the Maison M.Chapoutier has chosen to use organic and bio-dynamic farming for most of their vines, and that this isn’t a recent trend: they’ve been certified since 1999.

The reason they are biodynamic and organic? “A conviction: that one should let the land live and speak.” They argue that these practices enable the terroir — that combination of soil, climate, know-how– to express itself the most completely: “In fact, the expression, transmutation of mineral into vegetal, can only exist with a living terroir, able to transmit life.”

Biodynamic and organic practices are good for the land, the people and the wine! We’ll discuss this more in April for Earth Month when we taste the 2015 Crozes-Hermitage “Les Meysonniers” Rouge (Syrah) and the Blanc (Marsanne). Stay tuned!

Second, Kathy aka Ima Zinner reads Braille, and we love that the labels use Braille on the labels: yes that’s what hose tiny bumps are! In 1994, Chapoutier added braille to the Monier de la Sizeranne Hermitage wine label and in 1996 expanded to include all wines bottled and sold by the Chapoutier winery.

Why Braile on the label?

Michel Chapoutier heard on TV that his friend, the singer Gilbert Montagné who is blind, had to take someone with him into the store in order to buy wine. The Monier de la Sizeranne vineyard  was founded by the Sizeranne family who has a blind family member, Maurice de La Sizeranne, the founder and president of the French Association for the Blind who developed an abbreviated version of braille.

What does it say in Braille? Producer, the vintage, the vineyard and region as well as the color.]

Kathy felt that the braille writing would be difficult for a braille reader because the dots were pressed down a bit. We invited Kathy tonight, not just because she is fun to have around and always has wonderful insights to add to our tasting experiences, but also because she knows braille: she used to transcribe textbooks into braille, she did not however learn to read braille by touch. She stated that it is a very difficult skill to learn. Most who learn braille first start with large braille symbols and work down to smaller dots.

Kathy also loved the embossing on the Châteauneuf-du-Pape bottle of the Pope’s seal.

THE WINES from Maison M. Chapoutier

2016 – Luberon “La Caboose” Blanc –  13% alcohol – SRP $16 (sample)
2015 – Chateauneuf-du-Pape “La Bernardine” Rouge  – 14.5% alcohol – SRP $60 (
2016 – Les Vignes De – Bila-Haut – Cotes Du Roussillon – Blanc 13.5% alcohol – $14 (sample)
2016 – Les Vignes De – Bila-Haut – Cotes Du Roussillon –  Rouge 13.5% alcohol – $14 (sample)

2016 – Luberon “La Caboose” Blanc –  13% alcohol – $16
Grenache, Blanc, Vermentino, Ugni Blanc, Roussanne

The up and coming sun-drenched Luberon area of France gets approximately 2,600 hours of sun per year. Located near the Luberon Regional Natural Park in the southeastern part of the Rhone Valley, the area is classified as Mediterranean but under the influence of  the Alps and Rhone Valley.  The Romans began planting vines in the Pays d’argues region in 750 BC, making it one of the oldest wine regions in Europe, and  they spread.

The name for this wine comes from Michel Chapoutier’s grandfather’s home located in the center of the town of Tain L’Hermitage. Press materials explain that “La Caboose was the energetic center of Chapoutier family life where children and relatives used to meet regularly. Similarly, these new wines from the M. Chapoutier portfolio are intended to be enjoyed with friends and family to celebrate everyday life.”

Color – pale yellow gold,

Nose – wet stone, slate,  apricot kernel, petrol, white stone fruit, honeysuckle,

Palate – some petrol, grass, orange blossom, essence of honey – not as round as the Bila-Haut, however it is amazing with the brie, the wine makes the cheese and the cheese makes the wine. Very musky, cavey, there is a damp earthy moistness to this wine.

Even with food, this wine has a race acidity. It cuts through the fatty duck and went so well with the brie. This wine loves rich foods. What a great find!

2015 – Chateauneuf-du-Pape “La Bernardine” Rouge  – 14.5% alcohol – $60
90% Grenache, 10% Syrah

From the Rhone Valley, the most famous — and the most expensive of the four wines — comes from Chateauneuf-du-Pape which gets its name because the Popes had their summer residence in Avignon in the 14th Century there. Châteauneuf-du-Pape literally means “The Pope’s new castle” — although that hasn’t been the case for quite some time!

Almost all of the arable land there is cultivated in wine grapes, and grenache is the dominant grape in the wines. A chief characteristic of the terroir in Châteauneuf-du-Pape comes from a layer of stones called gales or pebbles left behind when the glaciers receded up the valley. These quartzite stones are covered in clay which retains moisture for the dry summer months and heat which is released at night to further ripen the grapes. Winds help to provide great concentration in the grapes.

Color – dense – I suspect unfined and unfiltered, while dense, there is a brightness to it, it reminded Cathy of red carnival glass, it was also similar to the renucullas in the vase.

Nose – this wine has a funk on the nose, slate, not a lot of fruit at first, but it is very spicy, pepper, cinnamon, it is closed in. We should have decanted this before we got started on the duck!

Palate – Tastes great today, but you can lay it down for a while as well, spicy, the fruit is more cranberry, huckleberry, sour grass, this is a very acidic, tart wine, which went so well with the roast duck and fabulous the next day! I’m guessing whole cluster fermentation: lots of character in this wine.

Next we travel south to Domaine de Bila-Haut. Michel Chapoutier explains: “The Roussillon history is complex and compelling, and has at times been quite violent. Terraces on stony soil, with a rich geological background… Black and brown schist give the wine a solar touch. Gneiss for minerality and freshness. Combination of Limestone and chalk for strength and balance.”

2016 – Les Vignes De – Bila-Haut – Cotes Du Roussillon – 13.5% alcohol – $14 sample

Braille on the label and committed to producing organic, biodynamic wines.

color – pale, silver platinum

nose – petrol, earthy humus, iron, reminded Kathy of the smell of the ocean, gwen, when you are driving along the coast there is a little bit of sand, ocean spray and kelp, there is also some sweetness, not really sweet maybe fruit pollen.

palate -nice round mouthfeel, grapefruit, lime, the brie brought out the sweetness of stone fruit/apricot in the wine. Has richness and complexity taste better than a $14 bottle of wine. It is not masked by oak, it is fresh, and lively.

Sue thought this wine would fight the l orange sauce, but it went perfectly, I felt this wine also went perfectly with the asparagus and the l orange sauce.


2016 – Les Vignes De – Bila-Haut – Cotes Du Roussillon – 13.5% alcohol – $14 sample

For the price point of this wine, it is a steal. This is a fantastic wine for the money.

Color – red velvet theatre curtains, bright crimson ring, more garnet

Nose – Sue liked the nose on this wine, rich and inviting.

indolent fruit…

Laying on the couch and someone feeding you grapes. You smell the freshness of the fruit. There is a nice sagey quality.

Palate -pleasant, balanced, has a lot going on for a wine that is under $15. velvet was the first think that hit me said Kathy, and responded, cranberry , Kathy bounced back with endive has the spicy qualities of that green. This wine was perfect with the syrah soaked toscano cheese. What a perfect match.

Such a fantastic wine for the price. If you were at a restaurant, this would be a perfect value wine to order if it were on the menu.

The meal turned out so well. The duck was fantastic with all of the wines. With the dessert, this wine was the best of the 4, however once we pulled out the armagnac, there was no competition. Unbelievable decadence. Everyone should have a bottle of Armagnac in their pantry.

Dessert was fresh blueberries and while this wine did not fight the dessert, it was acceptable with the dessert

This let us have a wonderful experience with this wine from the beginning of the meal through to the end.

In addition to our post here on Wine Predator about “Duck à l’Orange with M. Chapoutier’s Biodynamic, Organic Rhone Wines,” roam with us in the Rhone with these posts from the other participating members of the French Winophiles; so much information in these posts from these knowledgable authors! Check out the twitter hashtag #winophiles to read our conversation from Sat. March 17 at 8am Pacific time.

27 thoughts on “Duck à l’orange with M. Chapoutier’s Biodynamic, Organic Wines

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  5. Wow, if I ever make duck a l’orange, I’m going to have a fire extinguisher handy. Also, thanks for the Bila-Haut tips! I’ve seen those wines around, but never tried them. I’m definitely going to pick those bottles up next time I spot them.

    Liked by 1 person

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  8. Well French cuisine does have a reputation for being challenging! But glad we went for it instead of corned beef and cabbage for St Patrick’s Day! And stay tuned for next month when we write about the 2015 Crozes-Hermitage “Les Meysonniers” rouge and blanc! I wonder if I can convince my crew to do duck again…


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  11. Such elegance in this meal – we’ll done! I love that you said to heck-with-it on a school night.

    I’m so pleased we had a Luberon wine in the mix, I love where Rhône and Provençal styles mix in that region.

    Great post – as usual super tempting!


  12. Oh my! What drama with the duck fat fire! Like you, I was lamenting the loss of all that beautiful fat– LOL! It looks like it turned out to be a beautiful meal in the end with many wonderful wines.


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  14. What a meal, what a post! And I still can’t believe you accidentally got the white. But I agree, not the worst that could happen. And I love the line up of wines you’ve got!


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