A Tour of Savoyard Grapes
With André & Michel Quenard
by Tom Wolf
Nestled in the mountainous pre-Alps sliver of France just south of Geneva, Savoie is home to some of the most underrated wine grapes in the country. Is this due to the region’s wine culture being overshadowed by its status, first and foremost, as a world-class skiing and hiking destination? Or is it because we often describe Savoyard grapes in northern Rhône terms (that is, Bergeron is Savoie’s answer to northern Rhône Roussanne, or Mondeuse is a relative of Syrah)? Whatever the reasons for their recent obscurity, the Quenard family crafts exquisite wines from the local grapes, ranging from mouthwateringly crisp and refreshing blancs made from Jacquère to earthy and savory reds showcasing the class of Mondeuse.
Combine the Jacquère grape with a process very similar to that of Champagne, and you get a beautiful crémant filled with notes of stone fruit, citrus, and chalk. Open this the next time you’re in the mood for a graceful sparkler.
It is fitting that such a regal expression of Bergeron is made by Guillaume Quenard, the grandson of the man who helped resurrect the grape’s status in the 1970s, André Quenard. Grown on near-vertical limestone scree slopes, Bergeron reaches incredible heights here, yielding a blanc full of character and flavors of peach, tangerine, and pine resin. Pair it with crabmeat risotto, shrimp and grits, or wild mushrooms on toast for a memorable summertime feast.
France | Savoie, Bugey, Hautes-Alpes
Seventy percent of the bottles that come from Savoie are white wines, but the region is also home to a red grape worthy of your attention, especially when it is grown along the kinds of steep, rubbly inclines that make up the Quenards’ best terroir. On the nose, this rouge is all black olive, pepper, and earth, but these notes yield to a bright, tart finish that gives it lift and a little extra complexity, making it a wonderful pairing for a wide variety of dishes from grilled lamb chops to falafel.