Skip to main content
Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant
Toggle Navigation Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant Your Cart

Les Hauts Lieux: WAY Off the Beaten Path

Les Hauts Lieux: WAY Off the Beaten Path

by Anthony Lynch by Anthony Lynch

Day 2 of Our Wines of the Moment Day 2 of Our Wines of the Moment

2021 Hautes Alpes Blanc “Grains de Clotinaille”

2021 Hautes Alpes Blanc “Grains de Clotinaille”

Domaine Les Hauts Lieux   

Discount Eligible $49.00
AT CART MAX

Domaine Les Hauts Lieux    France   |  Savoie, Bugey, Hautes-Alpes   |  IGP Hautes Alpes

Discount Eligible $49.00
AT CART MAX

My dad earned a reputation for looking where no one else was looking: his early imports from Chinon, Bandol, and Saint-Joseph were veritable unicorns in a world dominated by Bordeaux and Burgundy. Of course, this was over forty years ago, and the global wine landscape has evolved quite a bit. Chinon, Bandol, and Saint-Jo are now considered classics, and jaded palates seeking new thrills must turn their attention to new horizons.
     With that in mind, if there is one wine to discover from the far reaches of the middle of nowhere, it is most certainly this pristine blanc from Domaine Les Hauts Lieux, a tiny property perched high in the southern Alps. To call the Hautes-Alpes wine region “obscure” is a total understatement: just eleven small domaines call the area home, for a grand total of 130 hectares under vine. That’s the acreage of Hermitage, but spread out over a rugged stretch of fifty miles instead of one little hillside.
     Mickaël Olivon farms vineyards at up to 1,000 meters elevation in narrow Alpine valleys tucked beneath epic snow-capped peaks, like the Tête de Clotinaille, which towers over his vines. “Grains de Clotinaille” is one of four wines he makes from this unforgiving mountain terroir, each one named for a nearby peak he has scaled. What’s more, the word Clotinaille features an old name for a fermentation vessel—tinaille—suggesting the locals way back when had a taste for wine. We’ve come full circle, if you ask me.
     The blend features Chasan, an unlikely crossing of Palomino with Pinot Noir, with some Chardonnay. The wine’s purity and light floral character reminds me of a dry sake, while its bright, clean focus on the palate recalls a breath of crisp mountain air. A subtle hint of perfectly integrated oak provides a depth of texture that might appeal to Burgundy lovers. But it is distinct from the wines of Burgundy, Savoie, or anywhere else. Each refreshing sip is something completely new, and a delightful reward to one’s curiosity.

Discount Eligible $49.00
AT CART MAX

More from this Producer or Region

About The Region

Savoie, Bugey, Hautes-Alpes

map of Savoie, Bugey, Hautes-Alpes

Fifteen or twenty years ago, there was little buzz about the wines of Savoie, the Alpine region hugging the Swiss and Italian borders. In fact, most wines from Savoie were some combination of overcropped, thin, searingly acidic, and painfully rustic; even the best examples rarely made it out of the local mountain resorts, where they were served as an après-ski to wash down many a melty croque-monsieur.

But all that has changed, and today Savoie produces a number of top-quality wines in all styles, from simple thirst-quenchers to wines of substantial gravity. Kermit sought out some of these wines early in his career, having imported the spritzy, mineral whites of Apremont and Chignin in the late 1970s.

With vineyards at the foot of the Alps that occasionally climb to higher elevations, Savoie is defined by its mountain-influenced climate and extremely rocky terrain, with abundant limestone. Thanks to a diversity of indigenous grape varieties, quality-oriented growers with the choicest parcels—steep and well-exposed—can craft anything from crisp, low-alcohol whites from Jacquère to deep, gamey reds from Mondeuse. More serious whites are made from Altesse as well as Bergeron, the local name for Roussanne, which the Romans planted on the slopes of Chignin around the same time as they introduced it to the Rhône Valley.

Savoie’s diversity of styles and distinct sub-regions, from Arbin to Seyssel to the Bugey (technically not a part of Savoie, but included here for convenience) makes it a fascinating region for the thirsty explorer. There is no better place to look for brisk mountain refreshment.

More from Savoie, Bugey, Hautes-Alpes or France

Discount Eligible $49.00
SOLD OUT
Discount Eligible $59.00
AT CART MAX
Discount Eligible $49.00
AT CART MAX
Discount Eligible $24.00
AT CART MAX
Discount Eligible $21.00
AT CART MAX
Discount Eligible $29.00
AT CART MAX
Discount Eligible $22.00
AT CART MAX
Discount Eligible $32.00
AT CART MAX
Discount Eligible $32.00
AT CART MAX
Discount Eligible $40.00
AT CART MAX
Discount Eligible $69.00
SOLD OUT
Discount Eligible $27.00
AT CART MAX
Kermit inspecting wine barrels

For the wines that I buy I insist that the winemaker leave them whole, intact. I go into the cellars now and select specific barrels or cuvées, and I request that they be bottled without stripping them with filters or other devices. This means that many of our wines will arrive with a smudge of sediment and will throw a more important deposit as time goes by, It also means the wine will taste better.

Discount Eligible $49.00
AT CART MAX