Savoie, pronounced Sav-WAH, is a wine producing region associated with the French Alps. The whites are notable, although you are likely not familiar with the white grapes of Jacquère or Gringet. The first is crisply acidic, somewhat like a Riesling meeting a Pinot Gris.
This region is where Celts and Romans lived, and was controlled by Italy until 1860. The Alps are gorgeous, the food and wine delicious and many towns include stone fortifications (including those constructed by military architect Vauban, in the town of Briançon) that are both commanding and attractive.
Skiing here is excellent, and after-ski racelette with wine can be delicious.
Jacquère is the most prevalent Savoie grape, making up roughly half of vine production in this region that is splattered from below Lake Léman (think Geneva) all the way south to below the city of Chambéry.
Another widely planted white grape is Roussette de Savoie, also known locally as Altesse. Wine from this grape includes tastes of tropical fruit and honey and can often be aged for several years. Another white wine from Savoie is made from Chasselas, typical and abundant also in the Swiss Vallée region.
Reds include Gamay (think Beaujolais) and more recently planted Pinot Noir, although these do not generally match the quality of whites. Other reds are made from the grapes Mondeuse (dark colored and acidic; as a blending grape it helps red wines to age) and Persan (herbal, well-structured and rare).
The location of these Alps is in relative proximity to Burgundian and Beaujolais wine country, and also the Rhone valley. This provides a wider range of wines locally available, and towns frequented by visitors offer greater wine selections from such different regions (and countries).
The Alps run east to west and then southward—passing through Slovenia, Austria, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and France. Choose whichever country you like, but it is worthwhile visiting these young, jagged peaks for a dose of life that with differing regional cultures (and sports), but also for a taste of distinct local food and wines.
In the southern French Alps, dinner and drinks at the Grand Hotel (freshly renovated two years ago) in the town of Chantemerle are excellent, and the little restaurant named Plaisir Ambré in Briançon offers excellent food (and Savoie wine) at reasonable prices. Afterwards, stroll down the inclined main street to view a wildly refreshing vista of snow dusted peaks.
Whether in summer or winter, alone or with friends, travel here with an open mind, and a hunger to learn about slices of history (and living) far different from what you already know.
My latest Forbes pieces are here, and include articles about South African wine, about an alpinist Instagrammer, about a winemaking mother in the Malibu hills and also about a French winter sports organizer who decided to quit his job in order to be CEO. There is also a brief piece about running through Bordeaux Grand Cru vineyards.
In the coming weeks I’ll cover the general quality of 2018 Bordeaux ‘en primeur’ wines, and will include a second annual tasting of a range of excellent Swiss wines. There will also be a general post that covers wine from the island of Majorca.
Thank you again for tuning in!