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The Quenard Family

by Chris Santini

Buy this collection (3 bottles)

$84.00
The Quenard Family - Chris Santini
The Quenard Family - Chris Santini

When I moved to Burgundy fifteen years ago, I befriended a young Savoyard who had recently inherited some family vineyards, and he invited me for a tour of his vines in the village of Chignin. Having never set foot in Chignin, nor ever tasted a wine from Savoie, I gladly accepted his invitation. As he picked me up at the local train station, he told me that the first thing he wanted to do was to take me to the domaine of Michel Quenard. He explained that Michel was his model, paving the way not only by making unique and delicious wines marked by their uncommon Alpine terroir, but also by championing the notion that these wines were more than mere local curiosities to drink at ski resorts over a pot of fondue.
     While Michel had long given counsel to young growers, he also had recently become president of the Savoie wine syndicate (a position he still holds today) and was pushing to lift the region by focusing on quality and the potential locked in the terroir. Under his tenure, the appellation of Chignin has cut by half the amount of acreage allowed to grow grapes (effectively eliminating any questionable terroirs), has limited yields, and has imposed sustainable farming practices. Thus, for my friend who wanted to introduce me to the region and its wines, it was a no-brainer to take me to Michel’s door.
     We were warmly greeted, and upon hearing my American accent, the first thing Michel did (after pouring a glass for each of us) was to bring out an old, worn scrapbook. Inside were page after page of clippings of write-ups from this very newsletter, in which Kermit would muse a few lines about a new release from the estate, as well as handwritten faxes from Kermit congratulating Michel for a cuvée that was providing particular enjoyment, and even forms detailing the various orders the domaine had received and shipped around the United States. Michel absolutely beamed with pride, without the least hint of arrogance, as he showed me the scrapbook. Each page validated what he, his father André, and the generations before had always believed: that Chignin was a grand terroir capable of making grand wines, and Bergeron was its grandest grape. At the time, I knew of Kermit but had no idea I’d be working in his office in Beaune a few years later. The moment was eye-opening for me, on many levels, to say the least.
     Since that day, I have become quite fond of Savoie wines—the Quenards’ in particular—and regularly have cases sent down the mountain for my personal cellar. The Quenards are on a mission to spread the word, and they price their wines accordingly, even though demand is high. They could easily sell their production three times over to the famous ski resorts down the road, and yet they prefer to let the wines travel and be discovered and enjoyed in various corners of the world. In the years following my first visit to the estate, Michel has been joined by his son Guillaume, who talks the talk and walks the walk.
     Of all Michel’s wines, his 2018 Chignin-Bergeron Les Terrasses is his crown jewel, the vision he has for Savoie taking its seat at the table of the world’s finest white wines. The parcel—the highest of the estate, too steep for any human to walk on—had to be hand worked into small terraces, where the ancient crumbled limestone of the Alps litters the ground, drains the soil, and radiates heat back to the vines on cold nights. A serious wine with spice and warm gingerbread notes, Les Terrasses is meant for something serious at the table, like pan-seared foie gras or langoustine. For a more casual tipple, try the Quenards’ 2018 Chignin Gamay, exactly what you’d hope for with Gamay grown in the mountains: fresh, crisp, peppery, and smoky. You can only find this one in the United States now; at the domaine, the cuvée sold out nearly instantly, given its local popularity as an everyday wine. Finally, for those who want to try a truly unique rouge, the 2018 Chignin Mondeuse Vieilles Vignes pours out with a shimmering neon-black color, smells of great northern Rhône Syrah, and is delicate and juicy to its core. A pure joy to swirl around and drink, it is the perfect embodiment of the Quenard family’s message of trusting their terroir.





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Warnings


Drinking distilled spirits, beer, coolers, wine and other alcoholic beverages may increase cancer risk, and, during pregnancy, can cause birth defects. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov/alcohol


Many food and beverage cans have linings containing bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical known to cause harm to the female reproductive system. Jar lids and bottle caps may also contain BPA. You can be exposed to BPA when you consume foods or beverages packaged in these containers. For more information, go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov/bpa