The snow-covered Alps is where our Wine Pairing Group is heading this month. One of the reasons I love wine is that it can transport you around the world through your glass. The focus of the month is Vin de Savoie, in the French Alps. Savoie(Sav-wah) wines have traditionally been enjoyed après-ski, with the region’s famous cheeses. Savoie is considered one of the most picturesque wine regions in the world, which produces mainly white wines.
Vin de Savoie
You may be wondering where exactly is Savoie? If it weren’t for its wines, I too may not know. Savoie is tucked away in Eastern France, bordering Switzerland. It is located in the Rhône-Alpes department of southeastern France. So next you are probably thinking, I have never heard of wines from Savoie, and that is completely understandable. Savoie Wines represent a minuscule 0.55% of all French AOP wines. 95% of Savoie’s wine do not leave the region. So be sure to seek out these wines, as they often fly under the radar.
Traditionally Savoie wines were consumed solely by locals and tourists. Savoie is a region that is highly coveted by travelers, for hiking, skiing, and wines. Condé Nast Traveler named Savoie as one of the Best Wine Regions to Visit in 2019. Today winemakers in Savoie are focusing their sights on bigger markets. Young enthusiastic winemakers in the region have brought in new energy to the region. The wines of Savoie have always been known as light wines to be enjoyed in ski chalets, but today with the modernization of winemaking styles and techniques these wines are gaining worldwide recognition.
Savoie Wine Growing
Savoie is known for its textured white wines. 70% of the wines produced are white wines. Additionally, they make reds(20%), rosé(6%), and sparkling wines(4%). In France, there are 250 grape varieties used in winemaking. The small region of Savoie alone has 20 grape varieties. Savoie is an incredibly diverse region, and this diversity in grapes can be attributed to its soils. Most of the vineyards are planted on limestone-rich glacial soils, though there is a presence of moraines(glacial deposit), alluvial soils, river terraces, and molasse basin. Vines are planted on mountain slopes ranging from 820 feet to 1804 feet.
Jacquère is the most common white grape variety grown in Savoie and represents half of the Savoie wine-growing region. Altesse represents 10%, as this is the second most popular white grape variety. Chasselas represents 5% of the grape harvest. The red variety, Mondeuse represents 12% of harvest along with a small production of Persan and Cabernet Franc.
I had the opportunity to sample some of the rarer wines of Savoie with a crunchy red and a bottle of beautiful sparkling wine.
Lambert De Seyssel Petit Royal Sparkling Wine (SRP $18)
The small town of Seyssel has a long tradition of making sparkling wine. Think of it as a Champagne-style bubbly at a fraction of the price. This sparkling wine is a clean, crisp, Savoyard treat.
The sparkling wines of Seyssel indulge in the same méthode traditionnelle production techniques used for Champagne. Seyssel, deep in the Savoie region in eastern France, is barely known beyond its borders. That’s also true of the grapes, Molette and Altesse, that go into this lightly floral sparkling wine. It is made much as Champagne is, undergoing a second fermentation in the bottle, and is aged for two years before release. The result is delightful and refreshing. The house style is also quite dry (low dosage) to preserve the character of the grape varieties.
Chateau de Mérande La Belle Romaine 2016 (SRP $30)
Château Mérande is located in Arbin, the home of the most distinguished Mondeuse in Savoie, and as such, 15 of their 25 acres of holdings are planted to that varietal. The rest of the estate is dedicated to the production of Roussanne from Chignin and Roussette de Savoie. The Genoux brothers, Daniel and Andre, are part of a family lineage of winemakers that go back generations, but that didn’t stop them from seeking additional consultation from Yann Pernult, a young vigneron with deep ties to the land in Savoie. With his influence, Château Mérande is now pursuing biodynamic practices, including the use of natural fertilizers and soil preparations and the exclusion of pesticides and weed killers. Also, they are a member of the Biodivine group, which helps maintain biodiversity in their vineyards.
I was thrilled at the opportunity to try a red wine from Savoie, as they are not easy to come by. Savoie is known for their white wines, so you know the producers that make red wine, are deeply passionate and committed to grape variety Mondeuse. This wine has crunchy red fruits, with notes of. sour cherries, pepper, florals, and black currant. The acidity is bright and shows the nature of this high altitude mountain wine.
Savoie Wines Paired with Tartiflette
Mountain wines paired with mountain fare was my theme when pairing the two Savoie wines. Tartiflette was the perfect dish that came to mind. When it is cold, or you have just come off the ski slopes in the French Alps, there is nothing like comfort food. Tartiflette is the ideal comfort food that you pair with a great glass of wine as you warm up by the fireplace. Cheese, meats, potatoes, is my idea of comfort food and that is all that is required in this classic dish from Savoie. It is a cheesy casserole, with potatoes, onions, wine, and crispy bacon, topped with Reblochon Cheese. It is served as a main course in apres-ski in Savoie. With a few bottles of Savoie wines, it makes for the perfect ski chalet supper.
I scoured the net for recipes and finally took a bunch of different recipes to create my own version. The creamy cheese in the dish made for the perfect pairing with the Petit Royal Sparkling Wine and the heartiness and richness of the dish was perfect with the La Belle Romaine. The high-fat content in this dish from the bacon and cheese made it a perfect complement to the high acidity in the wines. The fat in the Tartiflette really helped soften the acidity.
Here’s a list of great Savoie articles from my fellow #WinePW. Be sure to check in on them for more great Savoie wines and pairings.
- Jeff at FoodWineClick gives us “Warm Up by the Fireplace with Raclette and Vins de Savoie”
- Rupal the Syrah Queen pairs “Savoie Wines and Tartiflette – Mountain Wines with Mountain Fare”
- Nicole at Somm’s Table is “Cooking to the Wine: Altesse Roussette de Bugey Montagnieu with Crab and Veggie Gratin”
- Cindy at Grape Experiences offers “A Quintessential Pairing: Wines from Savoie and Savory Herbed Cheese Fondue”
- Liz from What’s In that Bottle shouts about “Alpine Wine Alert: Wines from France’s Savoie Region are Awesome”
- Pinny from Chinese Food & Wine Pairings shares “Andre’ et Michel Quenard Gamay from Savoie and Roasted Chicken Drizzled with Ginger Scallion Infused Oil”
- Here at Wine Predator we have “Chicken and Savoie for Sweethearts, Fondue for Friends #WinePW”
- Susannah at Avvinare shares “Brie and Bacon Quiche With Vin de Savoie Wine – #WinePW”
- Jane from Always Ravenous is creating “Raclette Paired with Savoie Wines”
- Wendy from A Day In the Life on the Farm writes about “A Gastronomic Visit to Savoie”
- Terri at Our Good Life is working with “Vin de Savoie and Seafood and Pasta with Lemon Butter Sauce”
- David from Cooking Chat shares “Potato Bacon Skillet Casserole – Tartiflette Inspired Recipe for Savoie Wine”
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures With Cam presents “A Taste of #vindesavoie: Älpermakkaronen + 2018 JP & JF Quenard Vin de Savoie Chignin”
- Linda at My Full Wine Glass gets into “Savoie wine – a non-skier’s reason to visit the French Alps (#WinePW)”
- Jen at VinoTravels makes “Garlic Buttered Shrimp over Polenta with the Wines of Savoie”
- Host Jill and Jason from L’Occasion present “An Interview With Author Wink Lorch + A Savoie Wine Pairing”
Join in on the Savoie Mania! Please join our Twitter chat on Saturday, February 8th at 11 am Eastern time. Our hashtag is #WinePW Cheers!!