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Domaine des Ardoisières

Domaine des Ardoisières is much more than your regular winery; it is a project of cultural and viticultural preservation. Founded by Michel Grisard, iconic Savoyard winemaker and biodynamic pioneer (who was also the man behind the winery Prieuré St Christoph (now retired)), it is has now fully been transferred to the hands of the talented Brice Omont.

Brice first came to the Savoie in 2003, somewhat serendipitously, and met Michel the day before he was due to return home to northern France. With very little experience (or none, as Brice humbly puts it) it was a welcome surprise for Brice to learn that this was in fact — in Michel’s eyes — an advantage. Michel said to him,

“With this kind of farming, you have to forget everything you knew, and start from zero.”

And that was that: Michel invited Brice to join him on the Ardoisières journey, and he’s never looked back.

Thank you to Vine Trail for this photo and the header photo

People: Michel Grisard (now retired) and Brice Omont

Place: Cevins, Savoie, France

Varieties: Jacquère, Altesse, Mondeuse, Mondeuse Blanche, Persan, Gamay, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay

Farming: Biodynamic

Hectares: 16

Did You Know? Brice emphasises the importance of leaving native plants growing amongst the vines. He says,

"I like to leave the spontaneous plants here. These plants are linked to our climate, and to our environment. Every plant grows for a reason, and you always see the balance in growth. These plants participate in our terroir."

“This is a story of abandoned vineyards, but also of the Savoie. If you go back 100 years, there were around 20,000 hectares of vines here. Today, there’s somewhere between 2000 and 2500…”

He continues,

“There used to be vines in many areas; all over really. Savoie was always famous for its polyculture approach; you’d have farmers raising livestock and farming grains, as well as grapevines.”

He says that many of these vineyard plots were tended for personal consumption; many families in the Savoie made their own wine.

“Back then, there was always a bottle of wine on the table. They were lower alcohol wines, and some people would also drink wine with the addition of some water. Wine was simply a part of normal life. That isn’t the case anymore; at least not in the same way.”

From the 60s, several inhabitants began to move away from the traditional polyculture models and either focused on one crop, or left agriculture altogether — instead taking jobs in nearby towns and cities. This meant that many of these little plots of vineyards, which are often only around 0.2 hectares, were abandoned and fell into disarray.

It was with this realisation that the fate of Savoyard vineyards was looking dire that Michel Grisard decided to do something about it. In the town of Cevins, he discovered beautiful old (many of which derelict) terraced vineyards, planted on treacherous slopes on very interesting schist soils. They were not easy (or impossible) to mechanise, but Michel wasn’t looking for something easy; he was focused on preservation and...

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