We have put heart and soul into the creation of this website in order to share our passion and beliefs with you. We hope you will appreciate the beauty of our estate and look forward to welcoming you to La Liaudise.
Welcome to Domain Chappaz !
Established for nearly two millennia, viticulture has existed in the Valais canton since the Gallo-Roman period, with written evidence dating back to the 11th century. Grape varietals documented at the beginning of the 14th century included Petite Arvine, Humagne blanche, Rèze and Cornalin.
Before damming, the Rhone River regularly flooded the region of Fully. The inhabitants of the valley regularly lost crops and were often poorer than in the mountain villages, surviving solely on the chestnuts of the region. Wheat from the hills was commonly exchanged for vines from the plains and as a result, small hamlets sprung up around Fully, organized around a barn for grain storage with a cellar underneath. Some of these grain barns exist even today at the bottom of the hills, along with sheds scattered throughout the vineyards which served to store tools and bottles.
Maurice Troillet (1880-1961), Marie-Thérèse’s great-uncle, built the house on the estate in the 1940’s. A great admirer of the Fully area and particularly of the La Fontaine hillside, he was also a Member and President of the Valais canton administrative council. The house was used as a reception space for friends and for some of the most distinguished political, religious, and cultural figures of the time, such as François Mauriac or General Guisan. It was also where the wines were vinified. Maurice Chappaz, writer, Swiss poet, and uncle of Marie-Thérèse, stayed there often. It was in this residence that he, along with Corinna Bille, wrote their best work on “cooking with gloves as there is no heat” as told by Marie-Thérèse herself.
Upon the death of her great-uncle, the house went to Marie-Thérèse’s family and she settled there in 1987. Today, with a nod to her great-uncle, several bottles at the domain carry the label of “President Troillet”.
Marie-Thérèse didn’t initially choose to be a winemaker. She originally wanted to be a midwife and to travel the world. When she turned 17, her father, a lawyer, offered to give her the Esserts parcel in the Charrat vineyard area. It was a difficult choice but after a hospital internship where she struggled with the ambiance and hierarchical system, she decided to accept the vineyard with the condition of having full control over its operations and management. Her father gladly accepted and Marie-Thérèse took over with the help of the existing winemaker on site. She completed a one-year internship at the Biollaz winery and attended preparatory classes to enter the Changins school, where she successfully finished a degree in viticulture and oenology. After that, she worked at the Changins winery while simultaneously tending her own vines. Six years later – six years of hard work learning, observing, and affronting various difficulties – Marie-Thérèse knew she had found her life’s path.
In 1987, Marie-Thérèse took over the entire family estate. She was obligated to sell her grapes that first year because the winery – located on the plot of La Liaudisaz – wasn’t ready. 1988 marked her first vintage followed by the birth of her daughter Pranvera in July 1989, and the opening of her winery in September of the same year. At that time, the domain comprised only one and half hectares, which wasn’t enough to live on. She added on over time and is proud today to have reunited the entire vineyard area originally held by her great-uncle either through direct ownership or rental of specific plots. Her estate now covers 10 hectares.
Marie-Thérèse’s work was compensated by the prestigious Gault et Millau gastronomy guide, who named her “Winemaker of the Year” in 1996. She has been subsequently listed among the top 100 winemakers and in 2016 received the title “Swiss Wine Icon”, in recognition of her dedication to quality and commitment to building the reputation of Swiss wines.
On November 8, 2015 at the Villa d’Este Wine Symposium in Cernobbio, Italy on the shores of Lake Como, François Mauss awarded Marie-Thérèse Chappaz the Lalique Award of Excellence “Lady of Wine”. This prestigious honour caps her extraordinary career.
Marie-Thérèse Chappaz receiving the Lalique Award. (copyright photo : Armand Borlant)
Marie-Thérèse desires to make great wines that are messengers of their respective soil, roots, climate, setting, and vintage, and of course their winemaker. She loves and tends her vines with the utmost care and respect for each plot and each varietal, considering herself just an artisan who seeks to highlight and bring out the best of a specific corner of the country.
Her philosophy is clear: minimal intervention and increasingly fewer exterior inputs. In the vineyard, she uses no chemicals or fertilizers. Along with a healthy dose of good humour, she makes her own homemade herbal preparations from compost, and otherwise only uses plants, biodynamic products, natural sulphur, and baking soda (such as is used in fondue). She does still use copper but only in the smallest amounts possible - less than 3 kilos per hectare. In the cellar, she only allows indigenous yeasts – no sugar and no enzymes. Some sulphites are employed but not for every wine.
Each year Marie-Thérèse works towards one ideal: to produce great wines that truly represent their respective terroirs. Each year she puts herself in question, being sure to carefully evaluate the relevance and consequences of her choices. “Biodynamic agriculture will not solve all the Earth’s problems, but it is a method for the future and one that will treat our planet.”
“Tell me and I forget,
teach me and I may remember,
involve me and I learn.”
« By taking care of yourself, you embrace the entire world. »
Marie-Thérèse’s “eureka moment” occurred in 1997 while visiting a specialist in biodynamics at Domaine Chapoutier in Tain-L’Hermitage (France). Overnight, she made the decision to convert her estate to biodynamic farming, which was in keeping with her own ethos and respect for the environment, for life, and for the terroir.
Rudolf Steiner introduced biodynamics in the 1920’s in response to growing difficulties faced by farmers in terms of seed and soil quality, as well as others. This agricultural practice safeguards and reinforces the soil and its biodiversity as well as the plant itself. It stands in stark contrast to modern farming which uses numerous chemicals that alter the nature of even the sap of the vine and destroys the soil ecosystem.
Biodynamics seek to reinvigorate and give new life to the plant. For Marie-Thérèse Chappaz, it is first and foremost a method based around the use of certain natural preparations that are good for the vine and the soil, such as horn-manure, horn silica, and compost. Developed by Rudolf Steiner, these preparations fertilize the soil and help the vines in their development. The entirety of Domaine Chappaz has been farmed biodynamically since 2003 and today is certified Demeter and Bio-bourgeon Suisse by bio-inspecta AG.
The herbal teas or preparations used in biodynamics treat the vines and serve to give them the force they need to defend themselves against diseases. In this type of farming, copper and sulphur are used to prevent different types of mildew. Herbal teas – also found in organic farming – help to reduce the necessary doses of copper and sulphur. The domain does not rely fully on herbal teas yet, but it is a firm target.
. Rainwater or spring water is best for these herbal teas. If prepared naturally but mixed with copper, tap water will suffice with added vinegar to increase acidity. The mixture is heated either with a wood-burning wash boiler or on a gas stove.
. Nettles are systematically used because they help to develop the vine’s immune system and to improve its natural defences in the face of fungal attacks. Ideally harvested just before flowering, nettles also provide iron and nitrogen, and ward off hydraulic stress, which makes them almost “magical”.
. Willow trees and meadowsweet are rich in salicylic acid, which helps reinforce the vine’s resistance to mildew.
. Yarrow plants, very common in vineyards, are useful against powdery mildew.
. Chamomile is helpful when the vine is suffering from hydraulic stress.
. In a decoction, horsetail helps protect the vine by repelling fungus during the perigee.
Each plant is useful and plays a fundamental role in vineyard management. Certain plants can indicate that the soil needs to be aerated or that it is too rich or too poor in organic matter.
All too often, certain plants are considered “bad”. But this is a mistake as they provide indications of what is happening within the ecosystem (soil pH, possible compaction, settling). Putting aside their healing powers, these plants actively contribute to insect life. When the soil is completely unoccupied, bindweed will come in and take over; if other “weeds” are there, the bindweed is less invasive.
Throughout her property and among the vines, Marie-Thérèse has created greater plant diversity by planting numerous fruit trees: peaches, apricots, plums, olives, figs, almonds, and quince all play a role, along with willow trees to use in herbal preparations. These trees are also important nesting areas for birds such as goldfinches or hoopoes.
The surprise discovery of a bird’s nest in the vines
Aurélien, Julien, Angel, Jorge, Marie-Thérèse, Aida, Ewelina, Camila and… Annick