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Savoie Wines escape from the ski slopes

Savoie Wines to taste in our restaurant Le Chalet d'Eglantine !

From vineyards on steep slopes in sight of the majestic Mont Blanc, or on gentler rolling hills near the gorgeous Alpine lakes, discovering the landscape that gives rise to Savoie wines is just one of the rewards of a visit to the region. By Wink Lorch ©

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Until not so long ago, Savoie wine was considered only as a simple tipple to enjoy at lunchtime on a sunny terrace after a hard morning on the snowy pistes high above the vineyards. Now increasingly these intriguing wines are becoming championed, not only by the 31 Michelin-starred restaurants of the region, but beyond in the trendy wine bars of New York, San Francisco and London.

WINES FROM UNUSUAL GRAPES

Two-thirds of the grapes grown in the Savoie wine region are white, but they are mostly from grapes you may never have heard of. Jacquère is the most widely planted white variety and the key grape found in the vineyards of Abymes and Apremont (you will see these named on the labels) at the foot of the distinctively-shaped Mont Granier at the northern end of the Chartreuse mountain range, near Chambéry.  A terrible landslide back in 1248 knocked the top off this mountain, burying villages below, but creating an interesting soil, mixing limestone and rock debris, ideal for vine-growing.

Jacquère whites typify Savoie wines in most wine experts’ minds. They are light in alcohol, have a delicate floral aroma and a fresh, apple or citrus fruit character, and they are perfect as an aperitif with a nibble of the local mountain charcuterie. Along with the whites from the Chasselas grape, grown on the south-side of Lake Geneva not far from Thonon and Evian, they are also the ideal choice with the quintessential cooked cheese dishes like Fondue Savoyard or Tartiflette.

The more surprising, much fuller dry white wines of the area come from either Roussanne or the very rare Altesse variety. Roussanne is grown in the Rhône Valley, but here in Savoie it is named Bergeron, and grown in the pretty wine-growers village of Chignin. The village has several ruined towers scattered through the vineyards, from where there is a spectacular view across the valley to Mont Granier.  Chignin Bergeron is usually a golden colour with honeyed aromas and a taste full of ripe fruit and lightly nutty flavours; it can match quite rich dishes, even foie gras.

The Altesse variety is unique to Savoie and used to make wines labelled with the appellation Roussette de Savoie appellation. Whereas Altesse may be grown across the region, it does particularly well near the village of Jongieux and in particular on the slope of Marestel, which is a separate cru or named vineyard area for Roussette de Savoie. Here the attractive vineyard slopes are away from the big Alpine mountains on the other side of the Lac de Bourget, above the river Rhône which at this stage has emerged from Lake Geneva and is heading south towards Lyon. This moderates the climate, allowing very high ripeness levels and a range of varieties to be grown.

Altesse white wines have characteristic Alpine freshness and a minerality along with delicious yellow fruit character that makes them a great match with the tasty fish from the Alpine lakes such as perch fillets (filets de perchesin French), Alpine char (omble chevalier) or the unusualféraa fish like a rather large trout. The best examples of Altesse can age really well and are highly sought after by the top local chefs.

Source :Wink Lorch© and Savoie Mont Blanc

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