FRANCE > SAVOIE
Mondeuse, Jacquère, Roussanne, Altesse, Douce Noir
IGP Vin des Allobroges, AOP Chignin-bergeron
France > Savoie
Domaine L’Aitonnement, located in Savoie in the French Alps, is a project of cultural and viticultural preservation, orchestrated through the talented hands of Maxime Dancoine. Maxime arrived in Aiton in 2016 and started collaborating with Marie-Dominique and Bernard Bachellier, pioneers of the renewal of this small vineyard area located on the left bank of the Isère. They were the last remaining vignerons in the village of Aiton, which despite its relative anonymity, has winemaking culture going back at least 400 years. While still in business, the Bacheliers progressively handed over parts of their vineyard to Maxime, especially all the white varieties.
Part of the reason for Aiton's obscurity comes from the fact that its vineyards are planted on steep slopes (sometimes up to 70 percent incline). Thus, they cannot be cultivated with the use of a tractor. The same story we have been hearing across Europe for decades. Indeed, in the mid-20th century, the area was known for its high quality wines, especially made from the region’s favorite red variety, Mondeuse. Maxime’s is up for the challenge to revive this centuries-old artisan viticultural history.
He was trained as an oenologist in Beaune and Changins in Switzerland, arriving in Savoie only in 2010. After a first position at the Chamber of Agriculture, he did a stint at the Louis Magnin estate, one of the pioneer of organic viticulture, who has been instrumental in raising the level of wine quality in Savoie in the last 40 years. Maxime then went on to work in the local oenologist laboratory, which covers most of the region. This helped Maxime quickly acquire in-depth knowledge of Savoie’s diversity, and Alpine magic.
He works about 2 hectares of vineyards planted primarily with the common Savoie varieties, Jacquere, Altesse and Mondeuse. However, Maxime also works with many historic, lesser-known varieties like Douce Noire, Blanc de Maurienne, Joubertin Noir, Mondeuse Grise and Mondeuse Blanc. His steep vineyards are south-facing and signature wind, which blows in between the surrounding mountains. The soils are composed of gray limestone and degraded schist, under which run water from several small springs.
Bachelliers were already working organically in the vineyards Maxime took over, but he then added on, introducing biodynamic practices in both the vineyard and the cellar. The grapes are harvested by hand and Maxime vinifies without addition of sulfur, adding it at filtration (when there is any) or at bottling. Any operations involving the wine are done, as far as possible, according to the lunar calendar – on fruit days with a descending moon. The wine is moved as little as possible and azote or carbon dioxide is used to protect it, thus limiting the use of SO2.
Maxime Dancoine is a winemaker to watch, he is definitely reaching the heights of other great producers from Savoie like Michel Grisard, Gilles Berlioz, Adrien Berlioz, Louis Magnin, Jean-Yves Péron and Domaine des Ardoisières. His passion to work in the obscure areas, to revive tradition in a forgotten viticultural area and above all to bring to life the rich heritage of Alpine grape varieties, is admirable, if not heroic.
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