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," says Michel Blanche with determination, letting his gaze wander over the vineyards that fall gently to Lac Léman. We are visiting Domâine d'Aucrêt and are standing in the middle of Lavaux. The welcome is friendly and almost familiar. The Blanches and Verganis have been cultivating their cooperation 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 the largest contiguous wine-growing area in Switzerland 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 kilometers along the shores of Lake Geneva, the vineyard is 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, still remains of buildings from it can be found in the estate. It served in the deepest Middle Ages 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 displays the sealed original deed, almost tenderly holding 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. Here, not only excellent wines are produced, but also delicate living waters are distilled.
Domaîne d'Aucrêt is one of the large wine producers in terms of the proportion of land they own. But in terms of production volume, with around 60,000 bottles a year, they can't keep up with the big players. On top of that, the canton of Vaud pretty much turned the growing areas upside down in 2009. 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 retained, 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 volumes and grape purchases. An Aigle is thus perhaps only 60% from grapes harvested in Aigle, the remaining 40% can come from anywhere in the Chablais. That puts tremendous 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 winery focuses mainly on site wines.
Domâine d'Aucrêt produces over 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. "Young people in particular love this light-hearted 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 a light red." Michel can also look to 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 tend his beloved vineyards, tinkering in the distillery or keeping an eye on the wine cellar.
Text: Domenica Flütsch | Picture: Flavia Vergani | Source: Vergani Magazine 8