Wine from the region of Savoie, often also spelled Savoy on some bottles and in printings, are sourced from the Savoie region of southeastern France. Although the general temperature is warm here at sea level, many of the vineyards are high on mountains, and hence the wines emulate cool-climate styles. They are more similar to wines from Switzerland and Germany than typical French styles.
The Savoie region is best known for producing dry, floral white wine, from a few local grapes that rarely shine outside the boundaries of the unusual region. Full-bodied, intense reds are also made from the local Mondeuse grape. Often simply known as "ski wine", the wines of Savoie are a bit underrated and should be appreciated for their unusual flavors.
With a long history in skiing and winter sports, the Savoie was nonetheless not integrated into the country of France until the 19th century. The wine industry there was slow to develop, with many AOC regulations not being passed until the 1970s. The appellation remains underappreciated.
Climate and Viticulture
Although located in southeastern France, the vineyards of the Savoie are often located high up on hills or mountains. As a result, the climate of the region is often compared to lofty vineyards like those in Switzerland or Germany.
Except for Roussanne, which is used in Chignin, the Savoie grape varieties are all likely varieties you've never heard of, unless, of course, you're familiar with this appellation. Jacquère and Altesse (aka Roussette) are two important local white grapes, and Mondeuse is the main red grape; none of these are commonly used anywhere else in the world. Chasselas, common in the production of Swiss wines, is also used here. Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are used in Savoie's more traditional wines, which are not quite as unusual or intriguing but nonetheless show what the Savoie climate is capable of.
A list of five of the good producers who make wines available to be found in the United States, is included below.
- André & Michel Quenard: Out of many producers named Quenard in Savoie, André is likely the best. This domaine makes samples of sparkling wine, which is rare but flourishing in Savoie, and has a solid, affordable Abymes. From Chignin and Chignin-Bergeron come the best wines, particularly the ones from old vines and the notable cuvée "Les Terrasses." Varietal-labeled Mondeuse wines are also important.
- Dupasquier: Dupasquier is one of the best producers of Roussette de Savoie, making wines of impressively high quality from hill grape Altesse.
- Domaine Edmond Jacquin & Fils: The great Roussettes here are a trifle overpriced but have good clear fruit flavors. The basic Savoie is also good.
- Domaine Jean-Pierre & Jean-Francois Quenard: Another strong Quenard producer. The Chignin and Chignin-Bergeron wines, especially the cuvées, are highlights; the old-vine examples are often the best.
- Château de Ripaille: One of the most solid, consistent, and pedigreed Savoie producers, making simple plain Savoie for a price of about $10 and superior quality.
Savoie only has four official AOCs into which wine is officially grouped. Note: The Chignin appellation is actually a village, and not its own official AOC, but it is among the most important styles of wine made here.
- Crépy: Since 1948, Crépy has been a good place for alpine-styled, floral wine made from the Chasselas grape. Since Chasselas is Swiss in origin, the wines are very Swiss in style. They are very obscure in America but if you can find one in France, it can be quite flavorful.
- Roussette de Savoie: This important appellation was made for dry or off-dry wines from the Altesse grape (also called Roussette). These characterful, surprisingly full and lush white wines carry prices of around $15-$20. Good producers are listed above.
- Seyssel: Made in 1942, Seyssel is the oldest wine appellation in Savoie. Similarly to Roussette de Savoie, most wines are made from Altesse, but obscure local grape Molette is also used from time to time. Wines are very hard to find, but again, can show promise.
- Vin de Savoie: Created with Roussette de Savoie in 1973, Vin de Savoie is the main and basic appellation for Savoie wines. This is still the best appellation, because wines are not arbitrarily limited to some specific grape variety, and there are several very good producers here. Wines can occasionally be pricey, but are often as low as $10.