2012 Domaine Trosset Harmonie
The alpine region of the Savoie has a long tradition for winemaking dating back to the Romans and, contrary to what you might think, the climate is not too cold. Most of the vines are planted at altitudes below 500m on south facing slopes ensuring maximum sun exposure and good, even ripening.
Savoie wines are not that well known, even in France; mostly because with only 2200 hectares of vines, the wines are rare, and also because 70% of the production is consumed within the region.
The most highly regarded of all Savoie reds is the Mondeuse from Arbin and the Trosset brothers produce the finest Arbin Mondeuse, from just 4 hectares of impeccably tended vines on the steep, imposing slopes behind their home.
Louis and Joseph Trosset took over their fathers estate in 2000 on his passing. Joseph in the vines and Louis in the cellar, which he manages with his other career, as a lecturer of plant biology at the University of Savoie.
Mondeuse is cousin of Syrah and the Italian grape Refosco. It derives from a marriage between Mondeuse Blanche and Dureza, a red variety from the Ardèche and can seem eerily similar aromatically (and attractively) to Cote Rotie or St-Joseph.
Trosset explains that Mondeuse is a large berried grape that also produces large yields if not kept in check. The Trosset's short prune and perform a green harvest in July and August that drops 50% of the fruit. It is a late ripening variety but gives only 11-11.5% alcohol, much less than Syrah.
They farm their 13 parcels by hand which would be difficult as all the vines are trained low 'en gobelet' (bush vines). Their viticulture is not certified organic but they don't use any chemicals and encourage soil activity, Louis thinks that the earthworms that pass two or three times through his soil each year do a great job!
In the cellar the grapes are fermented using natural yeasts 'vendage entier' (whole bunch) each parcel fermented separately in tank over about 10 days with daily 'remontage', before being pressed using an old basket press. The wines then mature, also only in tank, until they are carefully blended and bottled.
Louis has considerable intellect and conviction; he has a sharp wit and breaks his intensity with an occasional smile. He reminds me very much of Thierry Allemand in that way, and with the same diligence produces incredible wine.