There’s a certain formula for excellent artisan-scale wines from the so-called “old world” that I have run across many times in my travels and tastings. It’s not a positively guaranteed bet for great wine, but more often than not, it yields wines that are worth paying attention to.

The formula goes something like this:

  1. A family farm gradually transitions to growing vines from what is often a generations-old mixed farm; or the family simply has a long history as only a grower, often selling grapes to a cooperative.
  2. A member of the younger generation gets the winemaking bug and dives into the industry, perhaps studying enology, but definitely working harvests around the world to learn their craft.
  3. Returning home after hands-on experience and the chance to taste some of the great wines of the world, and sometimes working for another local producer for a short while, this young winemaker works with diligence and dedication to turn their family legacy into estate-bottled wine for the first time.

In my experience, perhaps the key element of this progression that will ensure the quality of the result is the winemaker’s time spent abroad. Variations on this formula that do not involve significant exposure to the world’s fine wines don’t seem to reliably produce a quality result.

Obviously, vineyard quality affects the outcome, as do the personalities and character of the people involved, but it’s a pretty good formula in my experience.

It’s one that the young, Savoie-based Matthieu Goury and his Domaine de Chevillard fit to the letter.

Matthieu Goury in his cellar in St-Pierre-d’Albigny

Goury’s family, which have lived and farmed in the Combe de Savoie valley for generations, own about 4.5 acres of vineyards. But since beginning his domaine in 2015 (at step 3 of the formula above) Goury has yet to make a single wine from his family’s vineyards because they have been leased to someone else. He’s looking forward to getting them back under his control in 2023, but in the meantime, he’s put together about 25 acres worth of parcels (some of them with vines dating to the early Sixties) spread around nearby villages from which he’s been making wine for the past 7 years. The majority of his vineyards are in Saint-Jean-de-la-Porte, Fréterive, and Saint-Pierre-d’Albigny, with two little plots in Apremont and Abymes and a shared plot in Monthoux.

After studying winemaking in Beaune, Goury spent time working in Australia, Canada, and the Rhône Valley before returning home, counting Chapoutier, Jaboulet, and Jasper Hill among his employers during that global tour.

Goury believes his time spent in the Northern Rhône was the most important to his understanding of his craft. “Here in the Savoie we’re much more similar to the Northern Rhône than we are to the Jura,” he says, dismissing a common point of comparison. “They have a main red and a white, Syrah and Viognier, and we have Mondeuse and Jacquère. And did you know that Mondeuse Blanche is one of the parents of Viognier?”

Goury named his domaine after the tiny village where his grandparents live, and in which Goury purchased a stone farmhouse dating to 1703, where he lives with his wife and children upstairs, while making wine in the extremely compact (read: cramped) stone cellars downstairs.

Goury works in a pretty traditional way in both his vineyards and cellar, farming organically (with forays into biodynamics), hand harvesting, destemming his red grapes, and using rather antiquated processing equipment, including the ancient basket press you see above that he inherited from his grandfather.

“I like to work with wild yeasts, and I want everything to ferment to 100% dryness,” says Goury. “We let malo happen on its own, whenever it happens. If something ends up with residual sugar, I won’t bottle it.”

Given the choice between overripe grapes and needing to add a little sugar, Goury would always prefer to chaptalize, which he has done on occasion. Apart from that, Goury tries to do very little in the cellar, preferring to work with gravity and disturb the wines as little as possible, giving some of his cuvées extended aging on the fine lees, and further aging in the bottle before release.

The tiny cellar dating to 1703

One of Goury’s wines, the “Le Berillion” Mondeuse, ages for 2 years on the fine lees and then another six years in the bottle before being made available for sale. He’s currently selling the 2015 vintage of that wine, which comes from an exceptionally steep (50% slope) hillside planted in 1966 that locals refer to as the slope of death, or “coteaux de la mort.”

“I’d like to keep all my Mondeuse for six years before release,” says Goury, “but that’s economically very difficult.”

Goury produces a fairly large portfolio of bottlings for an ostensibly one-man operation, including a Chardonnay, several Jacquères, two Roussettes de Savoie (using the grape Altesse), several Mondeuse bottlings, and a Pinot Noir. More recently, Goury leased a vineyard just around the corner from his home that is planted to Gamay, from which he is now making an additional wine.

Goury’s wines show an exceptionally deft touch for a young winemaker with only an 8-year track record at his own domaine. Despite his minimalist approach in the cellar, the wines are clean, bright, and surprisingly refined, especially given the ease with which Savoie reds in particular can slide into rusticity. At their best, these wines display a truly chiseled brilliance that cuts to the very heart of what the Savoie does so well.

I was first introduced to the Chevillard wines by Jon Rimmerman of Garagiste in Seattle, one of several importers of Goury’s wines into the United States. Goury, in fact, exports roughly 70% of his production outside of France, making them (or at least some of his bottlings) among the easiest to find Savoie wines in the US market. If you’re looking for an introduction to the charms of Savoie wines, you’d be hard-pressed to find an easier place to begin than the wines of Domaine de Chevillard.

Matthieu Goury standing in his Gamay

Tasting Notes

2018 Domaine de Chevillard Chardonnay, Savoie, France
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon pith and wet stones. In the mouth, bright lemon pith and lemon zest flavors mix with grapefruit and a hint of apples. Long in the finish, a whiff of honey. Fantastic acidity and deep mineral character. Only 5 barrels made. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: ??

2018 Domaine de Chevillard Jacquère, Savoie, France
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of yellow flowers and cherimoya. In the mouth, flavors of yellow plum, herbs, and sourish crabapple have a juicy brightness thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a touch of bee pollen on the finish which is accompanied by a very chalky, stony dryness to the wine, leaving the distinct impression of having inhaled rock dust. 11.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $28. click to buy.

2018 Domaine de Chevillard “Apremont” Jacquère, Savoie, France
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of white flowers and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, deeply mineral flavors of citrus pith and white flowers have a fantastic resonant acidity and deep stony minerality. Notes of lemon and lime pith linger in the finish along with wet pavement. Vines are 100+ years old. Exceptional. 11.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $33 click to buy.

2016 Domaine de Chevillard Roussette De Savoie, Savoie, France
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemongrass and a hint of membrillo. In the mouth, spiced applesauce and membrillo notes mix with deep stony wet chalkboard minerality and hints of green apple. That spiced note lingers in the finish. 12.5% alcohol. 100% Altesse. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2018 Domaine de Chevillard Roussette De Savoie, Savoie, France
Palest greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of pomelo pith and unripe apples. In the mouth, liquid stone flavors of green apple, pomelo pith, and crushed rocks have gorgeous, racy acidity and a light tannic grip that lingers in the finish. Fantastic tension here. 100% Altesse. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $50.

2018 Domaine de Chevillard “Monthoux” Roussette De Savoie Cru Monthoux, Savoie, France
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of dried apples, citrus pith, and honey. In the mouth, stony flavors of green apples, dried apples, dried honey, and dried herbs with a faint astringent character like pear skin, all have a deeply stony aspect and vibrating acidity. This wine is grown on a south-southwest exposure below the Massif du Chat. A small 5-hectare plot is the entirety of this cru. 12.5% alcohol Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $??

2018 Domaine de Chevillard Pinot Noir, Savoie, France
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of barnyard and forest berries. In the mouth herbal and barnyard notes have a smoky quality that mixes with berry fruit, and a touch of river mud. There’s a faint spiciness that lingers in the finish along with an alfalfa character. Vines were planted in 1962. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??

2017 Domaine de Chevillard Mondeuse, Savoie, France
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of slightly meaty blackberry and herbs. In the mouth, faintly salty bacon fat, dried herbs like thyme and sage, and forest berries are wrapped in a fleecy blanket of tannins. Great acidity and deep stony depth. The tannins here are pretty muscular and keep a tight grip on the palate. Somewhat rustic, from a year of frosts and difficult harvests. 12% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2018 Domaine de Chevillard Mondeuse, Savoie, France
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and boysenberry with floral overtones. In the mouth, a touch of saddle leather mixes with boysenberry and black cherry fruit flavors tinged with dried herbs. Fine-grained but muscular tannins have a putty-like quality as they grip the palate. Floral notes in the finish. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $53. click to buy.

2016 Domaine de Chevillard Mondeuse, Saint-Jean-de-la-Porte, Savoie, France
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of mixed dried herbs, thyme, and sour cherries. In the mouth, deeply herbal notes of thyme, sage, and other dried herbs mix with black cherry and sour cherry with a hint of salinity that makes the mouth water. Fabulous acidity and faint, muscular tannins with very fine grain. Regal and delicious and deeply mineral. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $55 click to buy.

2017 Domaine de Chevillard Mondeuse, Saint-Jean-de-la-Porte, Savoie, France
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of dried herbs, blackcurrant, and boysenberry. In the mouth, faintly saline flavors of blackcurrant and sour cherry mix with dried thyme and other herbs. A muscular fist of tannins gradually puts the squeeze on the palate as the herbal and dried floral notes linger in the finish. Fantastic acidity and deep stony quality. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $55 click to buy.

2018 Domaine de Chevillard Mondeuse, Saint-Jean-de-la-Porte, Savoie, France
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and a touch of smoky earth. In the mouth, earth and dried herbs mix with dark cherry and sour cherry flavors wrapped in a thick fleecy blanket of tannins that gain strength as the wine finishes. Needs a bit of time. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $55. click to buy.

2016 Domaine de Chevillard “Le Berillion” Mondeuse, Saint-Jean-de-la-Porte, Savoie, France
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of dried flowers, cassis, and black cherry. In the mouth, faintly saline flavors of black cherry, mulberry, and cassis mix with dried flowers and dried herbs and crushed stones under a fleecy blanket of thick, fine-grained tannins. Deeply earthy and stony, with fantastic acidity. Won’t be released until 2022 at the earliest. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

2017 Domaine de Chevillard “Le Berillion” Mondeuse, Saint-Jean-de-la-Porte, Savoie, France
Dark garnet in the glass this wine smells of dried herbs, dried flowers, and a hint of smoked meat. In the mouth, faintly salty meaty flavors of dried flowers, cassis, and black cherry mix with dried herbs. Muscular tannins wrap around the savory core of the wine, with a deeply stony earthy character and great acidity. Won’t be released until 2023. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

2018 Domaine de Chevillard “Le Berillion” Mondeuse, Saint-Jean-de-la-Porte, Savoie, France
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dried flowers, dried herbs, smoked meat, and cassis. In the mouth, somewhat massive, muscular tannins begin to dry the mouth immediately and wrap their massive mitts around a core of dried herbs, meaty cassis, and dried flowers. Excellent acidity, but the intense tannins needs some time, which is perhaps why this wine won’t be released until 2024. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.

The Domaine de Chevillard tasting lineup in Goury’s kitchen

Barrel Samples

Matthieu was kind enough to offer me a taste of some more recent wines during my visit this summer.

2019 Domaine de Chevillard Jacquere Barrel Sample, Savoie, France
Palest gold in color, this barrel sample smells of grapefruit pith and unripe apples. In the mouth, white flowers, pomelo pith, and unripe apples have a deep stony quality and crystalline aspect, as fantastic acidity and deep minerality linger through a long finish that tastes of green apple skin. Score: around 9.

2019 Domaine de Chevillard Roussette De Savoie Barrel Sample, Savoie, France
Palest greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of sea air, unripe apples, and a hint of lemongrass. In the mouth, green apple skin and grapefruit pith flavors are shot through with a faint salinity. Deeply stony, liquid rocks character here, too, with slightly more balance than the (very good) 2018. Outstanding. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

2019 Domaine de Chevillard “Apremont” Jacquère Barrel Sample, Savoie, France
Palest gold in color, this wine smells faintly of struck flint and citrus pith. In the mouth, lean citrus pith and citrus oil flavors have a deeply mineral, chalky quality leaving the mouth slightly dry as lemon pith and lime juice flavors linger in the finish. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

2020 Domaine de Chevillard “Les Abymes” Jacquere Barrel Sample, Savoie, France
Palest gold in the glass, this barrel sample smells of citrus pith and white flowers. In the mouth, citrus pith and a touch of brown sugar give this wine a slightly rounder character than the Apremont bottling, with a deeply mineral aspect and long citrus pith and wet chalkboard finish. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

2019 Domaine de Chevillard Pinot Noir Barrel Sample, Savoie, France
Medium garnet in the glass, this barrel sample smells of wet earth and forest berries. In the mouth dried herbs, forest floor, and forest berries mix with citrus peel and a touch of pink peppercorn. Thick, fleecy tannins grab the edges of the palate. Hints of bitterness linger in the finish. Score: between 8.5 and 9.

2019 Domaine de Chevillard Gamay Barrel Sample, Savoie, France
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this barrel sample smells of cherry and boysenberry. In the mouth, wonderfully bright citrus peel acidity mixes with the tart sour cherry and boysenberry flavor under a gauzy haze of tannins. Mouthwatering, with a faint salinity. Quite pretty. Score: between 8.5 and 9.

2019 Domaine de Chevillard Mondeuse Barrel Sample, Savoie, France
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this barrel sample smells of wet earth and black cherries. In the mouth sour cherry, black cherry, and a touch of cassis are wrapped in a heavy suede-like blanket of tannins and shot through with a faint salinity. Wonderfully stony, and deep, but needs some time before it will truly blossom. Score: around 9.

2019 Domaine de Chevillard Mondeuse Barrel Sample, Saint-Jean-de-la-Porte, Savoie, France
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this barrel sample smells of cassis and boysenberry fruit with a hint of dried flowers. In the mouth, muscular tannins wrap around a crunchy core of boysenberry and cassis flecked with dried herbs and dried flowers. Excellent acidity and deeply mineral qualities. Score: around 9.

2019 Domaine de Chevillard “Le Berillion” Mondeuse Barrel Sample, Saint-Jean-de-la-Porte, Savoie, France
Dark garnet in the glass, this barrel sample smells of cassis and dried flowers. In the mouth, dried herbs, cassis, and black cherry flavors mix with sour cherry and dry earth. Deeply stony with excellent acidity. The fine-grained but heavily muscular tannins have a firm grip on the palate and linger with notes of potting soil in the finish. Won’t be released until 2025. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

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