Beautiful old Mondeuse vines from the beginning of the 20th century - just insane! (c. Tobias Rower)

The Best of the Best: Domaine Louis Magnin and Arbin's most cherished Mondeuse (and an excellent Altesse)

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"It was a fine Mondeuse Vielles Vignes," writes Wink Lorch in her seminal book, Wines of the French Alps, "which made me realize Savoie wines could be of serious quality." This statement means a lot coming from the world's preeminent expert on the region. In fact, Domaine Louis Magnin, who produced this revelatory bottle of old vine Mondeuse, is one of only two Alpine estates that the authors of Wine Grapes (Robinson, Harding, & Vouillamoz) recommend by name if you're on the hunt for a quality bottle. Today, we're highlighting four special wines from the Magnin family, including the 2014 Tout un Monde, which is derived from the same .7 hectares of vines that led to Wink's important, game-changing idea on the Savoie's awesome potential... a good portion of these vines were planted a jaw-dropping 120 years ago!

Big smiles from Louis and Béatrice Magnin (Rosenthal website)

Before I continue with my own glowing opinion of the Magnin wines, I want to acknowledge the inevitable dilemma that all industry professionals face when selling pricey bottles from winemakers of regions only beginning to gain momentum in the US market. I'm assuming the majority of you have never spent $50-60+ on a single bottle of Alpine wine, save some whites from the late, great Dominque Belluard or the brilliant Brice Omont of Domaine des Ardoisières. You're most likely thinking, "Are these Domaine Louis Magnin wines worth it?" And I'll keep my response simple: Yes they are. They absolutely are.

Along with the Tout un Monde, we're offering some more affordable expressions from these masters of Mondeuse: La Rouge 2015 (70 year old vines) and the domaine's entry-level red, their Arbin Mondeuse 2015 (40 year old vines). All are crazy low in alcohol - none above 12.5%!

The 2014 Tout un Monde has a black core and red cherry edges in the glass. On the nose, the wine begins floral and soft, with wisps of herbs, and a mix of warm, milled espresso and shaved dark cocoa. Aromas of wild fruits, like blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry develop with air, leading to woodsy, healthy forest smells. The palate has a lovely spark of dark citrus. There is a foundation of black cherry, lean raspberry, and a great core of salt and graphite. Clean, medium-level acidity supports balanced tannin and an elegant swish. The finish hones back in on winter citrus and herbs, leaving the tongue perked and exhilarated.

Healthy vines in Arbin (c. Tobias Rower)

La Rouge 2015 has a dark center and clear violet edges. Aromas of smoke and dense earth mingle with bold dark flowers (violets and roses) on the nose. There is a hint of fresh cut cedar and raw vanilla that leads to a lingering scent of coffee. The fruit on the palate is of crisp black cherry and cassis cut by a zing of salinity and dark stones. The structure here is slightly richer and rounder than the Tout un Monde, though slightly less snappy, with generous but leveled tannin and good acidity. The finish is incredible, with a touch of cigar smoke and a mintiness that remains on the palate... basically forever.

The 2015 Arbine Mondeuse is a dark plummy color with light red edges. The nose is spicy, with hints of black pepper and pine, above a foundation of black cherry fruit and loamy, minerally earth. Flavors of tart red fruit, mountain herbs, and smalls plums sit in refreshing form on top a structure of semi-concentrated fruity swish, medium tannin and classic, linear Alpine acidity.

(As something extra, I'm also highlighting the fantastic Roussette de Savoie 2017 from the domaine, from vines also planted within Arbin. Clear lemon in the glass, boasting aromas of grass, apricot, yellow apple, lemon and smoke. Flavors of salt and citrus ride the wine's high acidity and cool swish to a finish of spicy pepper and tea, culminating in an herbal kiss. I spoke with a friend, literally this morning, who tasted the 2011 of this wine last night, and it has aged gracefully, developing a character of "honey comb and golden raisins," but still had a good "lift." I can't wait to taste the '11 myself!) 

Louis and Béatrice Magnin are the current proprietors of the domaine, located in Arbin, between Montmélian and Cruet at the southern tip of the Bauges Mountains. According to Wine-Searcher.com, Arbin benefits from soils of clay and limestone, with a top soil of mountainous scree. "The Mondeuse grape variety – the only variety permitted in Vin de Savoie Arbin wines – thrives on these dry, stressful soils, begetting intense wines with an excellent concentration of flavor," they add. To most Savoie-nuts, the best examples of Mondeuse come from these slopes. Wink writes that by 1980, after both his grandfather and his father had controlled production in Arbin, Louis took over. He and Béatrice have made many changes in the 40 years that they've been running things, including building a new winery in 2006, as Wink points out. They have been certified organic since 2012, and have been practicing many biodynamic techniques since 2010.

A little blurry, but gives you a sense of where the domaine sits on the slopes of the Bauges Mountains (Google Earth)

The sad part of this story is that the Magnin's are soon expecting to retire. When Wink published her book in 2019, she wrote that it wasn't clear who, if anyone, would take over the vines and the winery. The author's last sentence is lovely and thoughtful enough to bring a tear to one's eyes:  "One part of me hopes Louis and Béatrice finally get a rest, and the other hopes that their pleasure in sharing their wines continues for another 15 years, along with their ancient vines, until their keen young grandson is ready to take over."

I've thought a lot about this newsletter over the past few days. Are young people with thin wallets ready to save up just to buy one bottle of a special Alpine wine? Are drinkers with packed cellars ready to break with what tastes and traditions they've developed over decades and drink something from a corner of France they've either skirted past or never heard of? I think so and I hope so, and I can't imagine a better place to start than with Domaine Louis Magnin. Their Mondeuse made something click in Wink's head, and it did it for me too, so why wouldn't it for a whole bunch of others? To all who jump on board - enjoy these wines. They're truly world-class. David Hatzopoulos

**Wines in this offer arrive 10/19/21**

Domaine Louis Magnin 2014 Vin de Savoie Arbin 'Tout un Monde' Mondeuse

From .7 ha of Domaine Louis Magnin's old vines (many planted at the beginning of the 20th century), planted to clay and limestone soils. Hand harvested fruit, fermented with natural yeasts in stainless steel tanks before being aged in used demi-muids for 18 months. The 2014 Tout un Monde has a black core and red cherry edges in the glass. On the nose, the wine begins floral and soft, with wisps of herbs, and a mix of warm, milled espresso and shaved dark cocoa. Aromas of wild fruits, like blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry develop with air, leading to woodsy, healthy forest smells. The palate has a lovely spark of dark citrus. There is a foundation of black cherry, lean raspberry, and a great core of salt and graphite. Clean, medium-level acidity supports balanced tannin and an elegant swish. The finish hones back in on winter citrus and herbs, leaving the tongue perked and exhilarated. David Hatzopoulos

  • red
  • 2 in stock
  • $67.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic

Domaine Louis Magnin 2015 Vin de Savoie Arbin 'La Rouge' Mondeuse

From soils of mostly red clay mixed with limestone, under limestone scree. Hand harvested fruit, fermented with native yeasts in stainless steel tanks before being aged for 12 months in old oak foundres. La Rouge 2015 has a dark center and clear violet edges. Aromas of smoke and dense earth mingle with bold dark flowers (violets and roses) on the nose. There is a hint of fresh cut cedar and raw vanilla that leads to a lingering scent of coffee. The fruit on the palate is of crisp black cherry and cassis cut by a zing of salinity and dark stones. The structure here is slightly richer and rounder than the Tout un Monde, though slightly less snappy, with generous but leveled tannin and good acidity. The finish is incredible, with a touch of cigar smoke and a mintiness that remains on the palate... basically forever. David Hatzopoulos

  • red
  • 6 in stock
  • $56.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
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Domaine Louis Magnin 2015 Vin de Savoie Arbin Mondeuse

From several parcels in Arbin, vines planted to limestone-clay soils under unique limestone scree. Fruit is picked by hand and ferments naturally in stainless steel tanks. It is mostly aged in stainless, but a small portion sees neutral barrel. The 2015 Arbine Mondeuse is a dark plummy color with light red edges. The nose is spicy, with hints of black pepper and pine, above a foundation of black cherry fruit and loamy, minerally earth. Flavors of tart red fruit, mountain herbs, and smalls plums sit in refreshing form ontop a structure of semi-concentrated fruity swish, medium tannin and classic, linear Alpine acidity. David Hatzopoulos

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $45.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic

Domaine Louis Magnin 2017 Roussette de Savoie Altesse

From Altesse grown in Arbin, from a parcel known as Les Rochettes. Soils are a mix of clay and limestone, with a top soil of limestone scree. Fruit is harvested by hand. Natural fermentation occurs, 2/3 in stainless steel tanks and 1/3 in old barrel. The wine is then aged, following the same percentages, in both stainless and old wood. Clear lemon in the glass, boasting aromas of grass, apricot, yellow apple, lemon and smoke. Flavors of salt and citrus ride the wine's high acidity and cool swish to a finish of spicy pepper and tea, culminating in an herbal kiss. I spoke with a friend, literally this morning, who tasted the 2011 of this wine last night, and it has aged gracefully, developing a character of "honey comb and golden raisins," but still had a good "lift." I can't wait to taste the '11 myself! David Hatzopoulos

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $48.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic