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In the foothills of the Alps, southwest of Chambery, you find the tiny village of Chignin, one of the Cru of the Vin de Savoie: 200 hectares of vineyards located on sunny slopes with south-southwest exposure and an average altitude of 350 meters. The vineyards are protected from the north wind by the surrounding mountains, Mont Saint Michel, Mont Ronjoux and Saint Anthelme. The soil here is stony scree (aka talus- a slope formed by an accumulation of broken rock debris, as at the base of a cliff or other high place).
Claude Quenard's family purchased their farm and winery from the Monks of Chartreux in 1906. It was polyculture until the early 1980's when they decided to increase the vineyards to five hectares and focus on wine, at which point they gave up cereal farming. Claude, the grandson of the first non-monk owner, had the farm at the time. His sons, Guy and André, joined the winery in the late 80s/early 90s, at which point they increased their vineyards to 14 hectares.
In the mid-nineties, the brothers began practicing organic viticulture; this was revolutionary at the time, as there were less than a handful of wineries in Savoie doing so. They want their vines to be able to defend themselves naturally against parasites. To do this, they use plants, seaweed, and minerals. Depending on the weather, they may use sulfur and/or weak amounts of copper. They nurture the microbial life of the soil by using a small amount of liquid compost. Over the years, this led them to incorporate biodynamic viticulture. In 2012, they began applying dyanamized preparations to their vineyards – maximizing vitality to the vines and therefore to the wines.
Today, the domaine has 17 hectares, 85% of which is located in Chignin. The brothers follow the same principles in the cellar as they do in the vineyards, which is to say that they keep all additives to a bare minimum. They never use enzymes or synthetic yeasts. The wines go through malo, which allows the wines to stabilize naturally and requires less sulfur. The wines are kept on the lees until they are bottled, keeping the wines fresh and also allowing the brothers to use less sulfur. The wines are very lightly filtered, if at all. Locally, Chignin is often paired with fondue or raclette, but it’s easy to imagine it alongside grilled fish, asparagus, or on its own as an aperitif. It’s balanced with a remarkable minerality, highlighted by citrus, floral, and hazelnut notes on the palate with a slightly smokey finish.
The Quenard family is committed to reducing their environmental impact in the vineyard and the cellar. They capture and re-use 60-70% of the water used in the winery with a gravel recirculating water filter, thus lowering their impact on water supplies, and pollution.