Marie-Thérèse Chappaz is not only the most famous woman winegrower in Switzerland she is also a very endearing, simple and genuine woman.
A star in her own country but practically unknown elsewhere, Marie-Thérèse Chappaz is a winemaker from Fully, in Valais, 6km from Martigny.
Making wine for her is all about creating an emotion and telling a story.
“For me producing wines is not about making the best drink possible, by any means possible. Wine is something magical when it tells the story of a land, a terrain, a climate, a grape variety, in other words when it has an identity!”
Her family estate of La Liaudisaz hugs the hillside just above a fertile plain where the Rhone meets Lake Geneva.
Marie-Thérèse grows 14 hectares of vineyard at an altitude of between 400 and 800 metres, which are divided and spread over several villages - Fully and also Martigny, Charrat, Leytron, Saillon and Chamoson.
The majority of vineyards are cultivated in terraces supported by hand-built dry stone walls according to the centuries old tradition in the Valais. You can wander freely through the spectacular landscapes by taking the beaten pathways that join the different villages.
Reaching the highest vineyards, some of which have evocative names like la Combe d’Enfer, Hell’s Valley, can be dangerous for the winegrowers as they have to ascend the mountain in an unstable funicular limited to carrying a certain load.
Since the year 2000 Marie-Thérèse Chappaz has opted for the biodynamic agriculture method.
She has no regrets about this as her vineyards are shining examples of health and her steep slopes are now held together by a plethora of around 120 varieties of wild plants such as Marjoram, Oregano, Sweet pea, Hyssop, Viper's Bugloss, St. John's Wort and even wild thyme.
In certain places the vineyards give way to areas of “steppes” which are called “revis” or small forests filled with butterflies and birds.
The Petite Arvine grape variety flourishes and prospers on the granite slopes which enjoy a Mediterranean climate during the day and a mountain climate at night. This typically Valaisan variety produces excellent sweet liquoreux and dry wines which are distinguished by their exuberant aromas of rhubarb, wisteria, violet, grapefruit, mango and lychee.
According to Olivier Poussier (World’s Best Sommelier 2000) they are “worthy of being classed amongst the greatest white wines in Europe.”
Marie-Thérèse Chappaz’s Petites Arvines are outstanding due to their minerality and their capacity for ageing.