Andre & Michel Quenard Quenard Chignin Gamay 2019
Gamay has found a home away from home in the vineyards of Savoie, high on a mountain in the hands of the Quenard family. The chilly Alpine climate and rocky limestone soil of Chignin allow for a unique expression of the grape: lean, juicy, and explosively aromatic, with a salivating minerality that keeps you coming back for more. Unassuming enough to be uncorked for the most trivial of reasons, it radiates a vivid fragrance of smashed raspberries, then briskly and crunchily greets the palate before finishing on a note of powdered stone. Drink it frequently, slightly cool, and with gusto.
The Savoie is a picture of fairy-tale perfection: snow-capped peaks, green rolling hills, wildflowers, and cold, sparkling mountain streams. This idyllic region hugs the western Alps, where Michel Quenard farms twenty-two hectares of vineyards along the steep, terraced slopes of the Coteau de Torméry around Chignin. The limestone scree that dominates this vineyard land has brought great diversity to the soils, and consequently, the wines. His grandfather started the domaine in the 1930s. Though he slowly increased the vineyard holdings, he also sold off most of his wine in bulk. It was not until 1960 that Michel’s father, André, began bottling under their own label. Michel joined the domaine in 1976. Today, his son, Guillaume, joins him. While they are far from the only Quenards in Chignin, they are certainly the most well-known—perhaps this is due to the severity of their terrain and the quality of wines it produces. Andrew Jefford writes in his contemporary classic, The New France, “Michel Quenard and his father André are masters of the Bergeron grape, known in the Rhône Valley and elsewhere as Roussanne. They argue it should be limited to the best and steepest local sites where it can ripen fully, like the Coteau de Torméry, giving wines of real texture and perfume as it does so.” (p 122). We think it is one of the most unique and beautiful renditions of Roussanne in the world.
Despite the domaine’s proximity to the Alps, the vineyards enjoy a surprisingly warm microclimate with southern sun exposure. Fig and olive trees are also found among the vines, unusual for such a snowy region. There are sixteen crus in the Vin de Savoie designation, and each commune is known for a different grape varietal. Michel’s vineyards are planted to some of the region’s best known: Bergeron, Jacquère, Mondeuse, Altesse, and Pinot Noir. Michel bottles eight different cuvées, seven of which are still, and the other a sparkling Vin de Savoie Brut, which is made in the méthode champenoise. The minerality of Michel’s vineyards expresses an alpine freshness and liveliness in his wines. His cuvées go beyond the simple “eclectic” that categorizes wines from the region; whether they are quaffed or savored, they are all unique revelations that reflect the complexity of their terroir and the fine artistry of this master vigneron.
On the foothills of the Jura Mountains, just east of the Cote de Beaune on the Switzerland border, the Jura wine-producing zone is recognized for its unique reds, as well as its particular and diverse styles of whites.
Though borrowed from their neighbor Burgundy, Chardonnay and Pinot noir have been growing in Jura since the Middle Ages. But here the altitude, topography, climate and clay-rich, marl soils support a different style of Pinot noir, not to mention its other deeply-colored, full-bodied indigenous reds, Poulsard and Trousseau.
Considering area under vine, growers here favor Chardonnay for its consistency and reliability; it comprises almost half of Jura's vineyard acreage. However, Jura Chardonnay is anything but boring; its many offbeat styles are part of what make region’s wines so distinctive. It is used for Cremant (sparkling), Macvin (a fortified wine), as well as fine examples at the quality level of Burgundy.
Jura also has a unique oxidative style for Chardonnay but is better recognized for its similarly-styled “vin jaune,” meaning ‘yellow wine,’ which is made from the indigenous variety, Savagnin. Vin jaune is made using techniques similar to those used to make Sherry.
For all of its wines, Jura favors a traditional, natural and often organic style in viticulture and winemaking.
Delightfully playful, but also capable of impressive gravitas, Gamay is responsible for juicy, berry-packed wines. From Beaujolais, Gamay generally has three classes: Beaujolais Nouveau, a decidedly young, fruit-driven wine, Beaujolais Villages and Cru Beaujolais. The Villages and Crus are highly ranked grape growing communes whose wines are capable of improving with age whereas Nouveau, released two months after harvest, is intended for immediate consumption. Somm Secret—The ten different Crus have their own distinct personalities—Fleurie is delicate and floral, Côte de Brouilly is concentrated and elegant and Morgon is structured and age-worthy.