There is a stereotype about the wines of Savoie wherein they all taste like ice-cold spring water from a gurgling mountain stream you stumbled upon in an enchanted meadow just after zipping down a ski slope. This meadow typically has a fondue bar, to which local artisan cheesemakers carry the fruits of their labor via horseback exclusively for your enjoyment. The crisp white wine you sip impeccably cuts through decadent melty rinds, all while a fresh Alpine breeze provides invigorating contrast to the brilliant sunshine of this most perfect day. Alas, I am here to tell you that not all of Savoie’s wines taste like that. But this one most certainly does. The fruit is freshly picked, the flowers are in full bloom, and you can feel the stones from the rocky mountainsides crunching underfoot with each sip. Mouthwatering, and oh-so-satisfying.
Savoie’s Bergeron grape, known in the Rhône Valley as Roussanne, makes very different wines than the Jacquère above. Our mineral-spring metaphor becomes obsolete, as this white is not brisk and stony, but rather deep and enveloping, its warm textures caressing the palate with tender layers of honey, apricots, and jasmine. Made from old vines and raised in a solitary oak foudre, this illustrates Savoie’s whites at their grandest. You’d be wise to tuck a few bottles away for several years, or simply savor it now for its stunning class.
Savoie’s principal native red grape, Mondeuse, shares parentage with Syrah, and this medium-bodied rouge has some of the fragrant violets and cracked black pepper typical of old-school Saint-Joseph. The similarities end there, because the terroir kicks in next, and it resembles nothing you would find in the Rhône. Delightfully pure, chalky tannins make for a cleansing and bone-dry finish that brings to mind the steep, limestone-littered slopes of Chignin, its vineyards climbing several hundred meters up a massive mountainside.
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