Grower: Les Grangeons De L'Albarine
Region: Savoie, France
Grape Varieties: Altesse
Viticulture: Organic, Biodynamic
We first read about Les Grangeons de L’Albarine in an article published by French newspaper Libération in 2017. Luc Bauer was described in the same breath as gifted vigneronne Loreline Laborde of Les Granges Pâquenesses – so we took notice. When we prepared for our summer 2019 tour of the region Luc Bauer was the first name down our list.
From his childhood in the Monts du Lyonnais (south of the Beaujolais), Luc developed a profound love and respect for nature. Eager to work the land, he became an agricultural engineer but grew disillusioned after his experience in cereal production, an industry where profitability ruled over sustainability. His introduction to wine came quite late, courtesy of his Alsatian wife Clémence and her family whose enthusiasm for the local production was contagious.
The previous owner replanted some parts of the abandoned slopes (2002-2006) before passing the baton. Luc took over extremely motivated: undertaking the mammoth task of clearing more land – the steepest plots are sometimes on 35 degree slopes where no machines can go – building terraces, and planting more vines.
Nowadays Luc farms 2ha on the Coteau d’Argis but keen to work with a diverse range of terroirs, he also owns and rents around 1ha in various parts of Bugey: Combernand (Cluse des Peintres) on flat land of glacial moraine, the south-facing Clos de Beauregard overlooking the Rhône on iron-rich limestone scree, and a clay-limestone plot at the foot of the Grand Colombier (Bugey’s highest peak at 1,531m).
Bauer means farmer in German, it's a fitting name for someone who describes himself as a paysan-vigneron – Luc feels proud and honoured to perpetuate Bugey’s rich rural tradition which has been in steep decline through the 20th century. The name of the domaine is a reference to times gone-by when the natives’ main aspiration was to own a 'grangeon' (a stone building that housed all farming equipment and often a press) so they could work the land and make wine. There were many grangeons above Argis in 1905 when 100ha of vines were still recorded. And while it is impossible to change the course of history, Luc hopes that his efforts will inspire others to walk in the footsteps of previous generations.
Cartesian in nature, Luc likes to understand how things work so he was reticent when he first encountered the practices derived from Goethe and Steiner’s work. While he could see the positive effects of the various biodynamic preparations, not knowing why and how they worked was the source of frustration but he slowly gave in and accepted that certain things must for now remain a mystery. He follows the lunar calendar, and uses a variety of tisanes, 'purins' (liquid manure), and decoctions made with local plants to treat and stimulate the vines. To avoid soil compaction and improve its aeration and drainage, all the tasks are done either by hand or using a 'chenillard' (ultra-light crawler tractor).