The history of the Domaine des Ardoisières
Founded in 1998 by Michel Grisard as the replanting of the Cevins hillside, the Domaine des Ardoisières is the star of quality revival in the Savoie wine region. This adventure began in 1997 when Denis Perroux, the mayor of the village of Cevins, launched a project that would unite his constituents: replanting vines on the Cevins slopes to revive this former vineyard, which used to be used for food production. Though this ambitious project was started by Michel Grisard, a genuine winegrower with a talent for biodynamics, he was soon joined in 2003 by Brice Omont, an agricultural engineer from the Champagne region. Mr Omont has been running the estate since 2010, along with 12 silent partners.
The geology of the Savoie winegrowing area, divided into two terroirs
The vineyard, placed at an altitude of more than 500 metres, now covers 16 hectares and extends over two hillsides. The Cevins hillside, a glacial bar, has low dry stone walls and is dotted with sartos (small dry stone huts), facing south. Its soils are made up of schist and are silt-sandy, rarely clayey. The hillside of Saint-Pierre de Soucy, on the left bank of the Isère, planted on schistous marl from the Jurassic period, has deeper, more clayey-limestone soils. In the 19th century, the golden age of Savoie winegrowing, this vine cultivating area was very important. A few winegrowers produced white wines "with a delicious bouquet" that could even "rival the Graves and Chablis."
Cultivation methods adapted to the mountain environment
At the Domaine des Ardoisières, biodynamic viticulture is sacred: the vines are worked entirely by hand, with respect for the earth and the living world, on slopes of up to 60% schist. Yields are therefore very low, some years reaching only 25 h/ha. The quality of the wine is achieved first and foremost through hard work with the vines, as each action aims to transfer into the grapes, and consequently to the wine, the identity of each parcel.
In addition, the vines are planted on stakes following the contour lines. These small wooden stakes fixed in the ground at the foot of each vine allow the vines to be supported as they are subject to the harsh weather conditions on the vineyard's very steep slopes. Pruning had to be adapted to this method of vine management. It is therefore not the simple guyot pruning system used on the Cevins hillside, but short goblet pruning where the vine stock, close to the ground, allows the vine to be sheltered from the wind and climatic hazards.
The local grape varieties
The wines are mainly made from local grape varieties that are planted and blended together.
To blend its white wines, the Domaine des Ardoisières cultivates Jacquère, the most widespread white grape variety in Savoie, which gives light, mineral wines with a low alcohol content. Altesse is also present and gives dry wines that gain in complexity with age. These typically Savoyard grape varieties are joined in the vineyard by Roussanne, which gives fresh, smooth wines with aromas of flowers and honey.
For its red wines, the estate grows Persan, which gives tannic and colourful wines with good ageing potential. Mondeuse noire, also grown on the estate, offers robust wines, rich in red fruit aromas. Gamay noir with white juice is also grown on the estate. This grape variety, the king of Beaujolais wines, produces fresh and mineral wines.
The estate’s wines divided into 5 cuvées
The wines of the Domaine des Ardoisières are typical of the IGP Vin des Allobroges, an appellation which forms its character from the choice of grape varieties adapted to the pre-Alpine environment, producing wines whose finesse, minerality and purity can be appreciated in white, red or rosé.
The estate produces white and red wines divided into 5 cuvées. Of great purity and elegance, the white wines express all their subtlety after aeration. Argile (from the Saint-Pierre-de-Soucy hillside) combines the grape varieties Jacquère, Chardonnay and Mondeuse blanche, producing fine and delicate wines. Schiste, which is made from Jacquère, Roussanne, Malvoisie and Mondeuse blanche, gains in momentum and brightness after a long aeration. Only Quartz is a single variety, made from Altesse. The red wines also have great finesse. The red Améthyste combines Persan with Mondeuse and is characterised by a very fine, woody expression that reveals itself with aeration. The red Argile is a blend of Gamay, Mondeuse and Persan grapes and is fresh and lively.
The quality choices
In the cellar, the purity and aromatic finesse acquired by the grapes is honoured as its quality is reflected in the wines. With a good ageing potential, the estate's wines show this commitment to quality. The wines of the Domaine des Ardoisières are finely crafted with skilful ageing and show great finesse and originality, which will gain in brilliance with the years. The white wines of the Domaine des Ardoisières, in particular, are among the greatest wines of Savoie.