Savoie Wine

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Savoie Wine

As we start to see the ineluctable impact of climate change on viticulture, vineyards that have the cooling advantage of elevation are engendering increasing interest. The slopes of Savoie which lie in the foothills of the Alps above the Drôme river are an ideal exemplar of this phenomenon. Free-draining with plentiful sunshine and relatively low rainfall, they provide an ideal environment for cultivating grapes that don't become sugar-saturated and yield excessive degrees of alcohol. Moreover, they enjoy a long history of winemaking and are home to some exciting and characterful grape varieties that are rarely found elsewhere.

The Tiollier family's Domaine de l'Idylle is based in the village of Cruet from where they tend 19 hectares of vines cultivated with local grapes that undergo traditional vinifcation in their own cellars. Since the INAO's welcome decision to extend Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée status to Crémant de Savoie in 2015, the Tiolliers have produced a benchmark, bottle-fermented version from a blend of Jacquère and Roussette. With a lively mousse, inviting wildflower aromas and a zesty, orchard fruit palate underscored by fresh acidity, it makes for a versatile aperitif or celebratory 'sharpener'.

Another of their most popular and accessible wines is their pure, still Jacquère that is light, relatively low in alcohol and has an inimitable Alpine freshness. With orange blossom scents and an ethereal palate with citrus notes and a delicate finish, it pairs well with salads and shellfish. A sibling wine made from Jacquère is an old-vine ('Vieille Vigne') version sourced within the village boundary of Cruet. It is a touch fuller and richer as a small amount sees some time in barrel to enhance their soft stone-fruit flavours and nervy mineral notes. The Tiolliers deploy Roussette which furnishes the fruit for their popular 'Cuvée Emilie' that is raised over winter in used oak barrels to gain complexity. Redolent of conference pears and russet apples, it has enough weight to partner seafood and poultry.

Completing a commendable compendium is a red Mondeuse that has briary hedgerow fruit, delicate tannins and earthy undertones, it pairs well with charcuterie and smoked cheese and is best served very lightly chilled. Should spice be required, this lighter rouge is particularly favoured by Thai restaurateurs and chefs who value its relatively-low ABV, light tannins and good acidity to compliment rather than constrast with the cuisine.

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  1. Savoie: Domaine de L'Idylle Mondeuse 'Le Tithonien' 2020
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Savoie Wine Region:

The vineyards of the Savoie stretch across four French départements from the southern shores of Lake Geneva to the Isère valley south of Chambery, a fair old 100-mile, hilly schlepp if you were cycling! These days there are only 2,100 hectares of vines under cultivation (a little smaller than Sancerre) and most of the bottles go up river to slake the thirst of hikers and skiers, only 5% is exported.

70% of the wine is white and most of this is made with the Jacquère grape, although Roussanne, Roussette (aka Altesse) and Chardonnay can also be found. The red grapes (20% of the region’s output) include Mondeuse, Pinot, Gamay and the rare Persan. A spot of rosé (6%) and sparkling (4%) makes up the balance, with negoçiant houses and cave co-operatives accounting for the majority (60%) of production, overweighing the independent vignerons.

Although the wines could never be called Grand Vin, they have plenty to admire – crisp, refreshing whites and juicy, crunchy reds; the best examples tend to be villages ‘cru’ status, notably Cruet & Arbin.