Chasing Chasselas: Wines from Dominique Lucas of Les Vignes de Paradis

8/23/21 -

In France's Haut-Savoie, a short distance from Lac Léman and a half an hour drive from Geneva's city center in neighboring Switzerland, Dominique Lucas grows many different varieties of grapes, Alpine-originals and not. There is no argument, however, that this winemaker's most sought after bottlings come from his parcels of organically and biodynamically farmed Chasselas, a grape found in France and throughout Europe, but used most seriously in the production of Swiss wines. explains that "recent DNA research suggests it comes from the shores of Lake Geneva," which is exactly where Les Vignes de Paradis is located, though on the French side. Since 2008, Dominique, a Burgundian by birth, has headed this domaine.

If you haven't been impressed with Chasselas before (a variety that the authors of Wine Grapes describe as producing "ocassionally distinguished but pretty ordinary" wines), then you haven't tasted anything like the bottles that we're offering today. They're so "distinguished" that they'll make your head spin.

The 2017 Chasselas de Marin is a crisp yellow-golden hue. The nose shows a foundation of savory yellow apples, fresh white flowers, baking spices, and pointed aromas of quince, mint, and pine. On the tongue, this wine is salty, with lemon pith and lime zest. My drinking partner mentioned a certain "Ricolla" fruit and herb combo that was spot on. The mouthfeel is high-toned, established by acidity and mineral spark. A glimpse of sweet apricot adds an unexpected, pleasantly weighty flavor to the wine's great saline driven finish. Shocking in complexity - ready to go on day one, but with even more tangy citrus developing on the second night. Wow...

Chasselas just looks incredibly refreshing (Producer's site)

The 2016 Un P'tit Coin de Paradis is the richer of the two. In the glass, the wine shows a brilliant faint gold in color. On the nose, generous aromas of pear and roasted almonds give weight to airy smells of white and yellow flowers. There are earthier elements too, like white pepper, beeswax, and warm chickpeas. Ontop of the palate's baseline of apple and pear, zing of lemon and a hint of winter spice. Structurally, there is healthy acidity softened by a jacket of tender swish. Something almost tannic brushes the insides of the cheeks after a sip. The wine's finish is defined by a lingering hint of dry butterscotch. An absolute pleasure to drink.

In her book, Wines of the French Alps, Wink Lorch describes Dominique's dedication to good farming. "Dominique uses biodynamic methods fully in the vineyards," she writes, adding "he grazes sheep, ploughs certain vineyards with a horse, dynamizes his own preparations and uses medicinal plants and essential oils," though he isn't interested in becoming certified. For the same reasons, this innovative winemaker found the winegrowing rules of Burgundy and Bordeaux too exhaustive and rigid to host his creative aspirations as a producer, Dominique largely remains outside of the AOC system in the Savoie, labeling his wines, as Wink points points out, "IGP Vin des Allobroges or Vin de France" because of disagrements over acceptable grapes and cellar methods.

"Dominique is one of the most clear-thinking natural winemakers of the French Alps," Wink writes. "It is a joy to see this potential for making Savoie Chasselas great again." These wines from the shores of Lac Leman aren't just top-notch expressions of Chasselas, but fantastic wines in general. The thrill seekers who challange their tongues with acidity will obviously appreciate them, but they are so complex in flavor and so clearly textured in form that anyone looking for an exceptional white wine will be blown away by the quality and depth of Dominique's style. Snatch up what you can, as we can't get a single bottle more than what we're offering today. David Hatzopoulos

Welcome, Romain! (Importer's Site)

**As an additional highlight, we'd like to introduce the Romain Chamiot to our list of Alpine producers! Swooping in to replace the oh-so-tasty Cuvée Thomas from Domaine Blard & Fils (the last bottles of which you'll see for sale here), Romain's Jacquere from the same region is more citrus driven than the Blard. It also has a lighter texture and more spice. We're incredibly excited to add this affordable white to our stellar line up of wines from the French Alps! "This bottle epitomizes what the Apremont region is known for," Eric Asimov wrote last month.**

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