Terroir and Vineyards

Location

 

The vineyards of Domain Chappaz are situated at the heart of Europe, in the Valais canton of Switzerland. With more than 5000 hectares, Valais is the largest winemaking region in the country. The majority of the vines are planted between Martigny and Loèche, on south-facing slopes at 450-800 meters altitude on the right bank of the Rhône River.

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The domain’s 10 hectares are divided among 4 villages: Fully, Charrat, Leytron, and Chamoson. Located at the bend of the Rhône River, Fully benefits from more than 2000 hours of sunshine and 600 mm of rain per year and has a variety of indigenous and international grapes (e.g. Petite Arvine, Humagne Rouge, Cornalin, Syrah, Marsanne) that are well-adapted to this elevated Rhône valley.

This particular geology and climate combined with Marie-Thérèse’s biodynamic approach are ideal for creating unique, world-class wines that are regularly acclaimed by the wine media and renowned chefs.

Walls and Terraces

 

Swiss vineyards along the Rhône valley are characterised by walls and terraces. Created long ago, they are now subsidised if rebuilt in the ancient method, using only stones without mortar. They also make the perfect environment for lizards.

Today, if all the walls of Valais were aligned, they would extend more than 3000 km, equal to half the length of the Great Wall of China.

 

Hillside walls

The hillside walls of Claives above Domain Chappaz

 

Vine Training System

 

Gobelet” is the traditional vine training system in Valais, with the stakes facing the slope. Spring tillage is accomplished with a hoisted plough tied to a motor at the top of the slope. The biodynamic farming method at the estate requires long and difficult manual labour to weed between the vines. 

For the past several years, Marie-Thérèse has employed a new system in her vineyards that facilitates fieldwork and encourages biodiversity. Vines are planted in the flat parts of the terraces and only the area at the base of each vine is weeded. The rest of the parcel is left for plants to grow freely, thus creating a rich and diverse ecosystem.

Old Vines and Corkscrew Pruning

 

The oldest vines at the domain are actually Marsanne grapes, brought back from Tain-L’Hermitage in France by Marie-Thérèse’s great-uncle, and planted in 1924, just after the phylloxera epidemic. The locals dubbed the grape “Ermitage” after its place of origin. The corkscrew pruning method is typical to the Valais region and is well adapted to Marsanne and Gamay, but not to Pinot Noir.  

February is the month of the annual traditional pruning festival. Old-vine wines are opened and once the sun has set, the party begins at La Liaudise.

 

Film (In French)

 


Fully Vineyard


Fully La Liaudisaz


Wine originating in this vineyard :

Grain Noir

Loess soil on granite


During her youth, Marie-Thérèse’s father would buy 2 barrels of Premières Côtes de Bordeaux wine from his winemaker friend there. This was the family’s everyday wine and always a festive occasion when they bottled it. The particularly tannic nature and the flavours of these Bordeaux wines remain a passion for Marie-Thérèse and are the reason for her plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc on the La Liaudisaz parcel.

 

Film (in French)

 


Fully Les Claives


Wines originating in this vineyard :

Arviniac

Fendant Président Troillet

Grain Cinq

Grain Ermitage Président Troillet

Grain Noble Marsanne Blanche

Grain Noble Petite Arvine

Grain par Grain Petite Arvine

Grain Syrah

Soleil d'Arvine et d'Ermitage en style oxydatif

Granite Soil


Les Claives is one of the most difficult hills to cultivate in Valais, and perhaps even the world. Roadless, it ranges from 450 to 650 meters in altitude. Due to its steep slope, loamy deposits formed by the wind accumulate in the flatter parts while elsewhere, the soil is rocky and dry. The Claives appellation, with its successive terraces, is emblematic of this local hillside.

The primary grapes grown here are Ermitage and Petite Arvine. At the top of the hill, Fendant, Païen(Savagnin) and Sylvaner can be found. The lower part of Les Claives includes young Syrah vines along with Ermitage and Petite Arvine.

 

Film (in French)

 


Fully Plamont


No wine currently available from this vineyard

Loess soil on granite


Located above the Claives parcel, the Plamont hillside is a much softer slope from whence the name “le Mont Plat” (flat mountain in English) is derived. Called the “red lands” by winemakers in the past, rich, loamy soil (loess) carried by the wind has accumulated here over the centuries since the last glacial era. 

On this plot, Fendant from Plamont is grown to create the Coteau de Plamont wine. A little bit of Gamay is planted along the edges.

 

Film (in French)

 


 

Fully Combe d'Enfer


Wine originating in this vineyard :

Grain Cinq

Granite soil


The “Combe d’Enfer” (which translates literally as “the valley from hell”) is a spectacular parcel, with a 200-meter change in altitude from top to bottom.  Sandwiched between two walls, its form and location are ideal for capturing heat though one side is much cooler than the other, as it is unexposed to the setting sun. Thus, this area has different grapes on each side.

On the Combe d’Enfer parcel, Pinot Blanc and Gamay are the principal varietals along with a bit of Petite Arvine. Requiring less heat, the Pinot Blanc is planted along the least-exposed sides. 

Film (in French)

Fully Planche Billon


No wine currently available from this vineyard

Granite Soil


Planche Billon is a very unique area of the Claives vineyard, overflowing with biodiversity and the presence of rare plants due to its location at the bend of the Rhône River. With a unique blend of heat, wind and dryness, this is one of Marie-Thérèse’s favourite parcels. 

The terraces here are sometimes even smaller than their supporting walls. With roughly thirty vines per terrace, agricultural conditions are particularly delicate and the vines have to be handled with great care.

A wide variety of plants and trees surround this parcel, such as cherry, barberry, petit wormwood, and others. The red Humagne grape, originating from the Aoste valley, is the principal variety here and is used for the Grain Sauvage wine. 

The term “Sauvage” (meaning wild or untamed in English) is linked to the varied fragrances of humus, gentian, violet and oak leaves which create an exceptional wine. Because of the arid soil, production is limited to roughly 400 liters per year, which is why this wine is only bottled in magnums. 

 

Film (in French)

 


Fully La Louye


No wine currently available from this vineyard

Alluvial Soil


Petite Arvine is the primary grape varietal of Fully. It’s one of the oldest white grapes of Valais and this is where it is cultivated for the Grain Arvine La Louye wine.

La Louye is a beautiful parcel with 15-year-old vines that are easy to farm. Planted on alluvium – sediment left by glacial passage nearly 10,000 years ago – the vineyard consists of a wide diversity of soils and topography. This plot is encompassed by a depository used by former winemakers for storing stones to be used in terrace walls.

Film (in French)

Charrat Vineyard


Charrat Champ Dury


Wines originating in this vineyard :

Grain Nature Champ Dury sans sulfites ajoutés

Grain Pinot Champ Dury

Grain Pinot Charrat

Limestone soils


Charrat is situated on the north-facing, left bank slope of the Rhône River and thus differs from the sunnier Fully vineyard. The sun hits this area later in the day and during harvest season, the first rays are felt only around noon. On the other hand, the vines are sun-caressed until 8:00 or 9:00 pm in the evenings. The combination of these characteristics in conjunction with the limestone soil is perfectly suitable for Pinot Noir, which is particularly adapted to cooler temperatures.

Given that no two years are alike, the vines are Guyot-trained and the soil is tilled for one out of every two rows, weather-permitting. 

Champ Dury is a parcel with a superb terroir that is the best in Charrat for Marie-Thérèse’s Pinot Noir. A few rows of the Completer grape liven up the vineyard. This old Valais varietal, which is produced especially in the Grisons canton, produces an extraordinary white wine with full body and bright acidity. 

Film (in French)

Charrat Malindzo


No wine currently available from this vineyard

Limestone soils


Similarly situated to Champ Dury, this parcel is very steep with small bunches of Pinot Noir. In 2014 the grapes were very ripe and produced a “baroque” wine with an explosion of fruit that was atypical of the varietal. 

A beautiful area, the soil here is much deeper, less dry, and windier than elsewhere. The ground cover is a mix of lotus plants and red slate. 

Film (in French)

Charrat Les Esserts


Wine originating in this vineyard :

Grain Pinot Charrat

Limestone soils


Les Esserts is where it all began for Marie-Thérèse. This is the original vineyard gifted by her father, which explains her attachment to this plot. Primarily planted with Pinot Noir,  her passion has led to the world-class wines she makes today. The neighbouring vines are rented and planted with a mix of native Valais varietals and Burgundian clones.

Film (in French)

Charrat Champ La Combe


No wine currently available from this vineyard

Limestone soils


Champ La Combe is a splendid spot bordered on one side by pines, oaks and a gorgeous forest. On the other side is a special hillside on which an extraordinary golden flower grows that hails from the Russian steppes and only flowers in Valais. 

Film (in French)

Leytron Vineyard


Leytron Champs Longs


No wine currently available from this vineyard

Limestone soils


The Grain Mariage wine, a blend of Cornalin and red Humagne, hails from this vineyard.  

The soil is tilled for one out of every two rows, leaving free growth for flowers and herbs in the unworked rows. 

Film (in French)

Chamosson Vineyard


Chamoson Les Dahrres


Wine originating in this vineyard :

Grain Pinot Les Dahrres

Limestone soils


Formerly meadowland, this vineyard today is farmed biodynamically to deliver the delicate and elegant Pinot Noir that comprises the Grain Pinot Les Darrhes cuvée.

Film (in French)

Chamoson Champs Les Combes


Wine originating in this vineyard :

Grain Pinot Chamoson

Limestone soils


Champs Les Combes is a beautiful terroir with a rocky soil on which old-vine Pinot Noir is cultivated.

The small bunches harvested go to the production of the Grain Pinot Chamoson Village appellation, which is a blend of several parcels

Film (in French)