Wines from mountains and steep slopes

Last weekend we visited an exhibition for vertically-challenged winemakers; or, rather, ‘heroic’ winemakers with vertically challenging vineyards!

Biennale Vins de MontagneWe went down to Chambéry to attend the first Biennale des Vins de Montagnes et fortes pentes. Organised by Chambéry Promotion, Le Comité Interprofessionnel des Vins de Savoie and Plaisirs du Vin; their local manager, Sébastien Toursel, provided an excellent guided tour of the stands, introducing us to the producers.

CERVIMAlso involved was CERVIM, Centre for Research, Environmental Sustainability and Advancement of Mountain Viticulture (an international organisation set up for the specific purpose of promoting and protecting the heroic viticulture), whose criteria for participation were used for this event:

  • Vineyard sites at altitudes over 500 meters (1600 feet).
  • Vines planted on slopes greater than 30%.
  • Vines planted on terraces or embankments.
  • Vines planted on small islands in difficult growing conditions.

Biennale Vins de MontagneThe sixty wineries at this event were from the local regions of Savoie, Bugey and Jura as well as others from France. Banyuls – terraces; Limoux, Roussillon, Madiran and Jurancon – altitude; and Beaujolais…

André Chavel, Domaine du Four à Bois, BeaujolaisBeaujolais, I hear you exclaim? Indeed yes, they have steep slopes where the western vineyards of the region abut the Massif Central.

Daniele CoutaudinThe other well represented country was Italy, namely Aosta (where CERVIM was founded in 1987), Valtellina and a couple of very small regions in the north.

There were two producers from Switzerland, who seemed to be the odd ones out as both were big, each with more than 120 hectares of vineyards, and one from Germany, from the vertiginous slopes of the Mosel.

Here is a list of all the exhibitors.

Our two days were well spent at this well run event and, as ever, we discovered some new winemakers and wines of a generally good standard and quality. I do hope that this will be a continuing biannual tasting show, and will include wineries from other heroic regions such as Cinqueterra, Galicia and the Douro.

See my video of the first Biennale des Vins de Montagnes et fortes pentes here:

And here is my Flickr album.

4 thoughts on “Wines from mountains and steep slopes

  1. Thanks for recording this fantastic event so well. The most unusual and exciting find for me was the Coutandin couple from the Pinerolese DOC in the west of Piemonte, Italy, right on the French border. I’ve just had to use De Long’s Wine Map of Italy to check where it was. The pictures of their impossible-to-work vineyards that they had on their stand, together with the fabulous mix of obscure grape varieties makes this a must visit for the near future – their 2009 red was delicious too.

    • Yes, I thought they were delightful, unassuming and with charismatic wines, esp 2009. They have less than 1 hectare of vines with 5+ varieties co-planted. When I asked if anyone helped them at vintage they replied that they, and their son, were the only ones able to recognise the different vines; some a ripe and picked 15 days before the last to to be ready!

  2. I never knew there quite so many areas of vertically challenged viticulture. Sometimes you wonder why anyone would make hard work even harder. But I’m not complaining about the results!

    • Thanks Paola – the joy of wine is that we learn all the time! And there were a lot of good wines as well as some new grapes to me. E.g. toothsome wines made with Mollar…

Do let me know what you think!