La Maison Carree
Owners & winemakers: Jean-Denis Perrochet and his son, Alexandre Perrochet
Vineyards: 10.5ha across 17 parcels, of which 5.5ha is estate-owned and the rest is rented, primarily from family members
Vineyard management: Demeter-certified biodynamic
Soils: Clay and limestone
Grapes grown: Chasselas, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Savagnin Blanc
Annual production: 40,000-80,000 bottles
- Their vineyards have been a beneficiary of climate change: before 1990, their wines were so acidic that they de-acidified one out of every three years. Since 1990, they have only de-acidified twice.
- They favor gentle élevage on the lees in old barrels–their oldest foudre is from 1905.
- Jean-Denis on the advantages of being a small, family-run business: “Wine is the result of a multitude of little factors, each of which is important, from the planting of the vine to its eventual marketing and sale. At La Maison Carrée, it’s all in the same hands.”
The Perrochet family has been in Auvernier for generations–they were known as winemakers and farmers as far back as the mid-1500s. They acquired La Maison Carrée in 1827, and when Alexandre joined his father Jean-Denis in 2015, he represented the sixth generation of winemakers at this estate. Their consistent aim throughout history has been to best express their regional identity through their wines. As Jean-Denis sees it, “we are not the owners of our terroir, we are only the guardians. We must look after it so that we can pass it on to the following generations, as was done for us.”
The vineyards are situated along Lake Neuchâtel, on calcareous soils ideally suited for the grape varieties they grow. Climate change has helped them more consistently achieve ripe grapes over the past decades, but the altitude and cool autumn temperatures maintain balance and freshness in the wines. On the other hand, they’re now facing more issues with drought, excessive heat, and excessive precipitation. The estate has been farming biodynamically for over fifteen years. In the cellar, the goal is as little intervention as possible, including the use of traditional techniques (vertical press, aging on lees in foudre). As Jean-Denis says, “the winemaker is there to cultivate the vines and obtain the grapes. During vinification, he is around the fermentation process just to allow the wine to best express the characteristics of its origin.”