Discover the wonderful diversity of wines in the majestic French Alps
The Savoie region is known mainly to skiers, however the Savoie vineyards are definitely worth discovering. Boasting some 23 different grape varieties and 20 appellations, including three AOC, the Savoie region offers a great diversity of fine wines. With Mont Blanc towering above, the vineyards are situated amidst magnificent mountain landscapes and stunning Alpine lakes, and it is a perfect destination to combine wine touring and an active holiday. Savoie wines are essentially divided into reds and whites, with some rosé and sparkling wines, notably the Crémant-de-Savoie. Many of the region’s grapes are found only very rarely elsewhere.
There are three marked wine routes traversing the Savoie vineyards set among beautiful, contrasting landscapes and interspersed with large lakes (Geneva, Bourget, Annecy and Aiguebelette). Here the vineyards are open for tastings and the winegrowers are happy to offer informative walks through the vines and give visitors an insight into the harvesting and grape-pressing processes: Léman and Arve - in the northern part of Savoie Mont Blanc, close to Lake Geneva Cœur de Savoie - from Chambery to Albertville Savoie, Aix-les-Bains Riviera des Alpes - including the vineyards of Chautagne and Jongieux, near the Lake Bourget, and Frangy and Seyssel close to the Rhône river.
There are four main varieties of white grape:
- Jacquère covers around half of the vineyards in the Savoie. It is used to produce a pale, exotic and crisp dry wine, with notes of white flowers and minerals and a light sparkle. The Crus are Abymes, Apremont, Chignin, Cruet, Jongieux and Saint Jeoire Prieuré.
- Altesse covers around 10% of the vineyards and is becoming more common. It produces more complex, fruity and floral wines, both rich and fresh at the same time. Crus are Frangy, Marestel, Monterminod, Monthoux and Seyssel.
- Chasselas accounts for around 5% of the vineyards. It is used to produce wines with aromas of dried fruits and buttery notes. Crus are Crépy, Marignan, Marin and Ripaille.
- Roussanne covers just 4% of the vineyards, producing the Chignin-Bergeron single varietal wine, which has strong aromas of ripe fruit (quince and apricot) and honey notes.
The main red grape varieties:
- Gamay accounts for 15% of the vineyards and is used to produce fruity, perfumed wines. Crus are Chautagne and Jongieux.
- Mondeuse covers around 12% of the vineyards. It is used to produce richly coloured, tannic wines with aromas of white pepper and blackcurrant and spicy notes. Crus are Arbin and St Jean-de-la-Porte.
- Persan is a grape variety which is native to the Maurienne Valley. The wines that it produces are well-structured, deep red in colour with a herbal nose and notes of spicy peppers.
Our favourite vineyards
If you visit no other vineyard, then don’t miss Chignin, situated on the western side of the Bauges mountains just south of the city of Chambery. The vineyards are carved out of high, rocky slopes and dominated by four ancient, ruined towers, each draped in a thick layer of ivy. The hillside terraces are so steep that grass strips have been planted between the vines to prevent the soil from being washed away.
If you like fairy-tale castles along with your vineyard visit, then look no further than the chateau at Ripaille. Situated on the edge of Lake Geneva close to Thonon, the 15th-century chateau was built by the first Duke of Savoy and it has a charming fairy-tale appearance. The vineyard attached to the chateau produces some of the region’s top wines and a guided tour of the chateau includes some tastings.