(deuh-lah-lehks) | Savoie Marin – Alpine

  • Chasselas based Savoie
  • Transparent, glacial
  • Ageable white wine

The Delalex brothers, Samuel and Benoît, fly the flag for Marin,

a cru of the Savoie region located on the banks of the Lac Léman, on France’s border with Switzerland. In an outlying area of a region that is not hugely famous, they take great pride in producing a style of wine from the local chasselas grape that is distinctive and nearly extinct.

Marin has a long and curious history of winemaking. One of the more unusual stories from its history involves a vine-training practice called a crosse. Vines were traditionally trained up 6-10m tall chestnut poles and then harvested using a ladder. The story is that as a result of a Medieval taxation system, which involved taking a specified amount of the crop based on land surface. By farming vertically, the industrious peasants were able to keep more for themselves.

Today crosses exist only as historical artifacts; one even adorns the entrance to the Delalex winery. Though the crosse might have disappeared in favor of more modern trellising systems, other particularities remain. Delalex remains a champion of the traditional practice of blocking malolactic fermentation, something rarely seen outside of Marin. This practice produces a distinct style of wine; when young, a crisp, intense, lemony acidity predominates but with time in the bottle, the wine mellows and becomes wildly complex. The best vintages from Delalex’s cru Clos de Pont are capable of aging well over 15 years, eventually taking on flinty petrol notes reminiscent of great riesling. The acidic framework is what makes this evolution possible. It provides a stark contrast to the majority of chasselas produced in the area, which tends to be quite soft and consumed young.

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The Delalex family has been making wine in Marin for generations,

until recently as part of a traditional rural agricultural system. Samuel and Benoît learned from their grandfather how he would bring barrels of wine down the hill by horse to Thonon, a popular lakeside resort town, to supply the local restaurants. It was Samuel and Benoît’s father who, after the war, decided to focus solely on wine, and sold their last cows in 1976. Now their holdings consist of eight hectares of vines around the village of Marin, where the brothers are constantly improving their farming techniques. They now have two hectares under fully organic management.

The real gem of the estate is the Clos du Pont, from which they make a single-vineyard cuvée. This very beautiful, privileged site is steep and stony, with vines planted right down to the banks of the glacier-fed Dranse River, which empties into Lac Leman. It was a locally reputed spot that had historically been planted to vines, one that the older generation always talked about for its high quality. Once abandoned, Samuel and Benoît’s father decided to reclaim it from the surrounding forest and replant it in 1982. Clos du Pont is a warm and sunny site, protected from the cold northern winds called the bise, but the river brings a constant freshness to the wines. Though vinified in precisely the same manner as their tradition, it shows much more density and structure. The transparency of the chasselas grape means it expresses the site very clearly.

In the cellar, they vinify using only indigenous yeasts, with the wines aging on the lees in stainless steel tanks for a few months before being bottled. The last crucial step is that wines are then aged in bottle for a minimum of one year before they are sold.

The resulting wines have a transparent, distinctive identity that focuses on the site. They are delicious food wines, particularly excellent with the local Lac Léman specialty: Filet de Perche Meunière. The wines never go through malolactic fermentation or contain residual sugar, something very common with chasselas. The flavor profile is very original, and inspires a contradictory statement: the wines are feather-light yet dense at the same time. They are also unfailingly fresh and alpine; you can’t help but think of mountain rivers and meadows. There are parallels here to certain wines from Muscadet, or perhaps even to certain higher expressions of txakoli, but in the end, these wines are just expressions of Marin: the place and the history.


Delalex Clos du Pont

Clos de Pont

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