Producer Highlight: Domaine des Ardoisières

Producer Highlight: Domaine des Ardoisières

Domaine des Ardoisières has, in less than two decades, made a name for itself as one of the greatest wineries in the Savoie and is instrumental to putting Savoie on the map of French winemaking.

We were introduced to the wines of Domaine des Ardoisières while working in Brooklyn and upon arrival back in the Netherlands we were baffled that these wines weren't imported yet. These wines breathe the Alpine climate of the Savoie; ripe, mineral and with a soothing, icy freshness to it. We are particularly proud of being able to offer these wines to the Dutch market, since ’22 we are bringing them in through a partnership with Pieksman.

The story of Domaine des Ardoisières starts around 2003, when Brice Omont was hired by the now-retired grower Michel Grisard of Prieuré St Christophe. In 2010 Brice Omont took control of the entire 16ha estate, including the incredible vineyards of Cévins, which have completely been restored by 250 villagers between 2000 and 2002. They had put together every small little holding to together recreate the once mighty vineyard of Cévins. They restored the terraces, vines and vineyard cabins. These cabins are made from the local slate stone which they locally call Ardoise, hence the name Ardoisières. The village of Fréterive also houses one of France’s largest vine nurseries. That nursery also housed rare, almost extinct grape varieties and they were included in the process; Cévins is planted full with traditional Savoyard grape varieties.

This Cévins vineyard has an enormous potential, with its full Southern exposure and it being as steep as the Côte-Rotie. The added benefit for Brice Omont, working biodynamically, is that he doesn’t have to worry about neighbors spraying chemicals around the vineyards; there are no neighboring vineyards around Cévins.

But let's first take a step back and talk about the great region of Savoie, where these wines are born. The greater wine region of Savoie is a French department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in eastern France. it consists of many isolated sub-regions and plots of vineyards scattered across four French departments: Savoie, Haute-Savoie, Isère, Ain. Often vineyards are completely isolated, belonging to a single winemaker. A singular and true expression of terroir. Many of the vineyards look out over the Alps and benefit from the big shifts in temperature during the day and the night; cold nights make for slower ripening of the grapes in this for the rest very hot region, making sure the wines stay light in alcohol and retain that typical Savoie freshness.

Savoie neighbors Switzerland (to the East), the Jura region (to the North) and the little-known Bugey region, which is west across the Rhône river. All told, the region is under 5,000 acres (2000 ha) accounting for a mere 0.5% of French wines. If you like white wines, this region is for you, as it makes up 70% of the total production. The same goes for Domaine des Ardoisières, which produces 4 white cuvées and 2 reds.

The region is currently undergoing a rebirth, benefiting from wine lovers all over the world on the look out for the new and exciting. Now that Jura's newness has faded and trends are driving up the prices, attention has been shifted southwards: Savoie.

Even though the vineyards are often quite high in altitude, this region is still a relatively warm area and the vineyards can be surprisingly warm with their south facing exposition (often 50⁰+ in summer). Exemplary: Apricot, fig, olive and almond trees can share the growing space with vineyards in Savoie.

The grape varieties are quite dazzling, as Savoie is an area that mixes unique indigenous grapes with others it loans from its neighbors.

Mondeuse Blanche, Jacquère, Rousette, Mondeuse Noir, Persan. All new words to us until recently, but these are the quintessential Savoie grapes, creating fresh and mineral driven wines of a unique quality. Most of the vineyards for Ardoisières produce extremely low yields, like 20-25 hectoliter per hectare.

Work in Domaine des Ardoisières’ cave revolves around minimal intervention, with a mix of fibreglass cuves and older oak used for white élevage. Under normal condition malos are completed, with a total sulphur of around 30mg/l at bottling. The reds are made from 100% whole bunches by semi-carbonic maceration, sulfur here too is added when needed, with a maximum of 35mg/l.

The wines are sommelier's sweethearts all over the world and offer a clear, unobstructed view of what this exciting region has to offer. Through Domaine des Ardoisières wines you truly taste a sense of place of Savoie.