Did you know that? The Tarentaise vineyards are the first in France - coming from Italy!
This little joke aside, I have always been attracted by the little-known vineyards in France. So, on the blog, I covered the Côtes de Toul, in Lorraine, wedged between two major wine regions: Champagne and Alsace.
When we lived in Granier, we often walked in the vineyards, a little further down the valley, at La Côte d'Aime.
I knew of the existence of a wine press, but we had never visited it. It is now done thanks to Gérard Carrier, who opened the doors of the cellars of the old presbytery of the village to us.
But first of all, let's go back in time to understand the interest of this vineyard better.
A bit of history
Legend has it that the Romans introduced the vine to the Alps.
In the Middle Ages, the Tarentaise vineyard experienced a boom as it was encouraged by the Church and trade.
In the 19th century, the vineyard-covered 2000 hectares of slopes between Albertville and Bourg-Saint-Maurice. This is the equivalent of the current Savoie vineyard.
In the Tarentaise Valley, only a few dozen hectares are still cultivated.
The Tarentaise Vineyards
In the Tarentaise Valley, between Moûtiers and Bourg-Saint-Maurice, the vines are found on the south-facing slopes. This side of the Beaufortain is rightly called the "Versant du Soleil".
They are planted relatively low, close to the valley villages, between 600 and 800 metres in altitude. Thus, the Tarentaise vines are 5 to 10 days later than the vines of the Combe de Savoie, situated at an altitude of 300 metres.
The Saint-Bernard wind (or foehn - a warm continental breeze) tempers the oceanic influences. It allows the Tarentaise Valley to benefit from a beautiful late season, favourable to the good maturation of the grapes in October. Thus, the sunshine amplitude exceeds 14 hours daily on the Aime slopes.
The Tarentaise vineyards (Vignes de Tarentaise) have various sub-soils: gypsum of Villette, carboniferous schist of La Côte d'Aime and Valezan, schist of the Bozel valley...
The phylloxera crisis
As everywhere in France, the phylloxera crisis between 1863 and 1890 greatly affected the Tarentaise vineyards. The old grape varieties were lost, and what remained of the vineyard was replanted mainly with early varieties: Gamay for the structure of the wine and Alicante-Bouschet for its colour.
Later, the dead plants were replaced by hybrids (seibel, noah, clinton, baco, isabelle, othello...). These high-yielding varieties have the advantage of being resistant to disease.
Nowadays, the vineyard shows a great mix of early and late varieties, a real headache when deciding the harvest date!
However, this terroir also defines itself as a reference in terms of natural wine.
The Pressoir of La Côte d'Aime
The wine press of La Côte d'Aime was inaugurated in 2012. It results from a unique experiment in the world: safeguarding a landscape and cultural heritage through an agricultural processing tool.
The Pressoir is located in the cellars of the former presbytery. It allows all the winegrowers of the valley to transform their grapes into wine.
We had the chance to visit the wine press thanks to Gérard Carrier, who gave us a little guided tour of the place.
We saw a large tank: the pneumatic press containing 200 kg of grapes, the bottling machine, and the stainless steel tanks.
The quality of the winemaking equipment ensures that the wines produced in the wine press are very stable, thus guaranteeing them better conservation.
It takes 1.5 kg of grapes for 1 litre of red wine and 1.7 kg for 1 litre of white wine.
Today, the Tarentaise vineyard covers an area of 20 hectares, with 250 amateur winegrowers producing around 50,000 litres of wine.
The Vin de l'Adret
The Vin de l'Adret is made at the La Côte d'Aime wine press. Thanks to the selection of grape varieties and the diligent maintenance of the plots, the memory of "paché" has faded. This Piquette wine was food for the farmers who worked in the mountains.
Today's wine benefits from a vinification process that meets the new standards of consumers looking for a healthy and natural wine.
Whether it is red, white or rosé, the Vin de l'Adret comes from an "authentic and local" vineyard. This new wine can be served on any table and goes wonderfully with Beaufort, the king of Savoy cheeses!
Where to find the Vin de l'Adret?
The Vin de l'Adret is produced in small quantities, so you will find it on sale in a few outlets. Try the Cooperative laitière d'Aime or come to one of the events organised by the Vignes de Tarentaise association.
Walking in the Tarentaise vineyards
The hike proposed on the Savoie Mont Blanc website allows you to discover the vineyards of La Côte d'Aime.
We followed it in all seasons, but it is in autumn that the colours are the most beautiful.
The scenic walk follows a wide path and is suitable for a family, even with young children.
The view is magnificent over Mâcot-la-Plagne and the hamlet of Sangot.
How to protect the vines?
Walking along the vineyard, you will notice that a metal fence surrounds the plots. This protects the vines from wild boar and deer. Several winegrowers will spread nets over their vines shortly before the harvest to protect the grapes from the birds' appetite.
The Tarentaise vineyards in autumn
Here are some pictures of the vineyard taken in autumn.
A big thank you to Gérard Carrier who kindly welcomed us at the Pressoir of La Côte d'Aime for a memorable visit!
To find out more about the Tarentaise vineyards, visit the official website.