In 1998, the beginning of what is now Domaine des Ardoisières was established by pioneering vigneron Michel Grisard with the aim to revive the renowned Coteau de Cevins. Before falling into despair throughout the 1900s, Cevins was known for producing great wines from its southerly facing steeply terraced vineyards planted on poor rocky mica-schist soils. Unfortunately, during the creation of the AOC system within the Savoie, Cevins was excluded due to its lack of direct sunlight. The AOC claimed that it was too difficult to achieve fully ripe fruit. Although this seemingly derelict vineyard area had been cast aside by the AOC, Grisard felt compelled to restore these forgotten vineyards to their former glory. And in turn, Cevins became part of Grisard’s initiative, "Vivre en Tarentaise," which aimed to revive the Tarentaise Valley to its former greatness.
In 2005, Grisard was joined by current winemaker Brice Omont and from 2005 to 2010 the duo spent countless back-breaking hours restoring these long abandon vineyards to indigenous varieties but not without an onslaught of difficulties. Burdened by financial struggles, the project was nearly destined for failure until a generous wine-loving oenophile was compelled to lend a helping hand and the necessary funds to keep the vision alive. The mission was successfully revived but Grisard’s retirement led Brice to assume complete control of what is now Domaine des Ardoisières. Although Grisard is retired, Omont perseveres with same passion and dedication to purity of fruit and biodynamic viticulture as his former colleague.
In the cellar, all wines, white and red respectively, are processed thoughtfully and gently, allowing each grape to represent its terroir, to which each cuvée is named. The fruit is never destemmed, followed by a gentle pressing. The reds are made from 100% whole bunches by semi-carbonic maceration. Neither white nor red sees cultured yeast. Sulfites are only added during bottling up to 30 ppm. The barrels used are all second-hand (Stockinger demi-muids), except for an occasional new barrel used for the breathtaking and ever-elusive Quartz.
When you taste the wines of Domaine des Ardoisières you can understand Grisard’s relentless dedication to revitalizing this land. Exuding powerful mineral notes, subtle herbal undertones, and remarkable clarity, these wines dance above your taste buds. But beyond these wines’ subtle yet thought-provoking structure, they clock in at no more than 12% abv. This is glacial juice at its finest.
I personally, adore all of the wines of this domaine and can only recommend you buy one of each. But here is a quick run down for the indecisive.
Silice is a stellar gateway drug to the Savoie. 100% Jacquère, the wine is crisp & fresh offering all Alpine subtleties at a great price. Argile offers a broader palate, slightly smokey with intense mineral tones. Silice on steroids. Schiste delivers heaps of tension, smoke, quince and citrus. Quartz is a beast unto itself. This wine needs minimum 4 years in bottle before it shows its true colors. In its youth it can be quite frank and linear but with time, it evolves into a deep savory, smoky, nutty, stone fruit powerhouse. Argile Rouge is a light on its feet, a cornucopia of dried flowers, pomegranate and pulverized minerals with a hint of spice forwarding a rustic & joyful complexity.
Maison des Ardoisières 'Silice,' Vin de France 2022 $33
Exposure: From three vineyards, totaling two hectares, in Apremont, old vines below Mont Granier. Vines planted on west facing slopes.
Soil: Schist and ardoise (a type of hard, black schist native to the region), mixed with clay
Ageing: at least nine months with only one gram of sulfur used at bottling.
Domaine des Ardoisières 'Argile Blanc,' IGP Vin des Allobroges, Savoie, France 2021 $42
Exposure: west-facing hillsides in St Pierre de Soucy
Soil: schistose marl, hard black shale, clay soil
Grapes: Jacquère (40%) / Chardonnay (40%) / Mondeuse Blanche (20%)
Domaine des Ardoisières 'Schiste Blanc,' IGP Vin des Allobroges, Savoie, France 2021 $75
terraced vines exposed South South East (slope up to 60%), Cevins Soil: schistose, schistose mica, loamy soil, poor and shallow
Grapes: Jaquère (40%) / Roussane (30%) / Malvoisie (20%) / Mondeuse Blanche (10%)
Ageing: 12 months in barrels
Domaine des Ardoisières 'Quartz' IGP Vins des Allobroges, Savoie, France 2021 $144
Exposure: terraced vines exposed South South East (slope up to 60%), Cevins
Soil: schistose, schistose mica, loamy soil, poor and shallow
Ageing: 18 months in barrels, partially new
Domaine des Ardoisières 'Argile Rouge', IGP Vins des Allobroges,' Savoie, France 2022 $54
Exposure: vines on hillsides facing West and South, St Pierre de Soucy and St Jean de La Porte
Soil: schistose marl and clay-limestone scree. clay soil
Grapes: Gamay (65%) / Mondeuse Noire (25%) / Persian (10%)
Thank you to Wink Lorch and her book Wines of the French Alps: Savoie, Bugey and beyond, as well as the informative website of Domaine des Ardoisières.
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