Andrew Guard

Savoie

 

The legendary Michel Grisard is held similar esteem in the Savoie as Pierre Overnoy is in the Jura. He comes from a from a family well-known for their skill as vine nurserymen (the Savoie is home to many of France’s best and most important nurseries) He comes across confident but is very reflective and wise with his years of experience growing and making wine, in particular red wine from Mondeuse.

In 1970, Michel settled with his father, helping him in the vineyards and also in the winemaking.

Unfortunately just before harvest the following year, his father passed away and Michel was joined by one of his brothers to help him. Michel bought from a widow the Maison Paganon that he renamed Domaine Prieuré Saint Christophe, however the estate was very run down and it took serious work to restore. In 1983, he left the family estate and his brothers to go out on his own at his newly created Prieuré Saint Christophe.

Michel produced his very first vintage in 1983 and decided to replant vines of the white grape Altesse among his 6 hectares of Mondeuse spread between Frétérive and Arbin. Like many others, Michel was initially sceptical of biodynamics, but he decided to test it on some plots starting in 1994. The following summer, still a sceptic, he asked Francois Bouchet (a famous French Biodynamic practitioner) to help out and together they prepared various tinctures that helped his vines become healthy, balanced and verdant. He has never looked back.

A very intelligent and motivated man with an incredible knowledge of Savoie he created, with partners, the Centre d'Ampélographie Alpine (a complex for the study and promotion of old indigenous grape varieties). Listening to him speak on the matter is fascinating and even more enjoyable if you have a glass of his wonderful wine in your hand at the same time. He is the Obi Wan Kenobi of the Savoie.

His wines are produced from 2 different terroirs: in Frétérive, the vines are planted on calcareous soils and in Arbin, the vines are planted on clay-limestone soils. There are 4 hectares of Mondeuse, 1,40 hectare of Altesse and 35 acres of Mondeuse Blanche. The vines are 30 years old on average and produce balanced yields each year.

These are highly individual and idiosyncratic wines that are capable of greatness and long ageing (the 1988 in 2013 was still vibrant ruby in colour and vigorous) Unfortunately, few will ever taste them as they are incredibly rare and Michel doesn’t like selling them. In his late sixties, he is also getting to the point of retirement and there is no one quite like him, let alone anyone that could replace him..

 


Written by Andrew Guard — April 02, 2013