How nice it must be to have your roots in one of Switzerland's most famous wine-growing regions, which is also a World Heritage Site?
"We are proud of our centuries-old heritage. And grateful", Michel Blanche says determinedly and lets his gaze wander over the vineyards that fall gently to Lac Léman. We are visiting the Domâine d'Aucrêt and are standing in the middle of the Lavaux. The welcome is friendly and almost familiar; the Blanches and Verganis have been cultivating their collaboration and friendship for over 30 years.
We are in the heart of Lavaux and the heart goes out. Between Lausanne and the famous Chillon Castle lies Switzerland's largest contiguous wine-growing region with spectacular scenery. For generations, the stone-walled wine terraces have shaped the landscape and have been protected as a Unesco World Heritage Site since 2007. Stretching over 30 kilometres along the shores of Lake Geneva, the vineyards are a testament to hard, human work with nature. Over centuries. And in the middle of it all, high above Cully, Michel Blanche is master of vineyards, orchards, cellar and distillery. The Domâine d'Aucrêt estate has been in the family for more than 400 years and is as steeped in history as it is in heritage.
Originally it belonged to an abbey, remains of which can still be found on the estate. In the deepest Middle Ages, it served as accommodation for the monks who planted the world-famous vineyards and stone terraces. Then, in 1575, the abbey issued a charter of freedom to Nycolas Blanche, and the estate has been in the family ever since. Michel proudly shows the sealed original deed, almost tenderly he holds the origin of his property. And that is something to be proud of. 8.5 hectares of vines and 9.5 hectares of fruit trees are cultivated. Not only are excellent wines produced here, but also delicate living waters are distilled.
The Domaîne d'Aucrêt is one of the big wine producers as far as the share of own land is concerned. However, as far as the production volume is concerned, with about 60,000 bottles per year, they cannot keep up with the big suppliers. Moreover, in 2009, the canton of Vaud pretty much turned the growing areas upside down. Vaud used to have 27 declared
wine-growing regions with AOC status, but now they have been combined into six wine regions. With some consequences. The place names, often with considerable brand value, may be kept, but the conditions have been relaxed. Only 60% of the grapes must come from this place, the remaining 40% can be from other areas of the same wine region. Which in turn favors the large producers with large bottling quantities and grape purchases. So an Aigle may only be 60% grapes harvested in Aigle, the remaining 40% may come from somewhere in the Chablais. That puts huge pressure on the price. "We can't keep up with that, we had to come up with something.We counter the price pressure with innovation and selection." On the one hand, this means focusing on single-vineyard and varietal wines.
"We are countering price pressure with innovation and selection."
The Domaine d'Aucret wine estate focuses mainly on site wines.
Domâine d'Aucrêt produces more than half of its wines as Grand Cru wines and about a quarter as exclusive varietal wines. "This allows us to guarantee that everywhere is 100% what it says on the label." Their second decision is to focus on innovation. With the Sans Souci line, they have launched a young, easy-drinking and very successful line of wines. Sans Souci impresses with its freshness and an extremely convincing price-performance ratio. "Above all, the young love this carefree wine. It delivers in the glass what its name promises: a carefree, light wine for many carefree occasions. It's available as a white, which is the best seller, then as a rosé and as a light red." Michel can also look into the future without worries. The course has been set, his positioning in the large field of Vaudois wines has been successfully initiated, the hurdles seem to have been taken. And the succession is also settled. Of course in the family, how could it be otherwise. The children will carry on the traditions and the family heritage. Which, of course, will not stop Michel from continuing to care for his beloved vineyards, to tinker in the distillery, or to keep an eye on the wine cellar.
Text: Domenica Flütsch | Picture: Flavia Vergani | Source: Vergani Magazine 8