Savoie was inhabited by the Celtic Allobroges (back in the Astérix and Obélix days) which was part of the territory of Gallia Transalpina, the first Roman province north of the Alps. The province included Languedoc and Provence and was established in the late 2nd century BC.
Prior to being controlled by France, Savoie was part of the kingdom of Italy. It was annexed to France following the Treaty of Turin concluded between France and the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1860.
From a formally administrative standpoint, Savoie is a French department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. As a wine region though, Savoie consists of many isolated sub-regions and plots of vineyards scattered across four French departments: Savoie, Haute-Savoie, Isère (where I lived) and Ain. Savoie neighbors Switzerland (to the East), the Jura region (to the North) and the little-known Bugey region, which is west across the Rhône river
. All told, the region is under 5,000 acres (2000 ha) accounting for a mere 0.5% of French wines.
If you like white wines, this region is for you, as 70% of the wine produced in Savoie is white. But make no mistake, you'll find tremendous red wine here too.
The vineyards are on slopes, sometimes very steep. However, the height above sea level is relatively modest, between 200 and 500 meters. The vineyards are often along the rivers, e.g., Isère, a tributary of the Rhône. The rivers, the lakes (Annecy, Lac Léman and others) and of course, the high mountain peaks affect the climate. It’s mild, there is even Mediterranean flora here, but as so often in mountainous regions, there can be rapid and unexpected fluctuations.
There are 23 grape varieties planted in Savoie and of these, there are five white and two red grape varieties that stand out for their exceptional quality and affinity to the rugged land. This weekend showcases:
* Jacquère (made in the method Champenoise)
* Jacquère (a still white wine)
* Altesse (another brilliant white variety)
* Pinot Noir (made similarly to wines from Jura, but a bit less geekly)
Although the vineyard soils are mostly lime-rich glacial material, there is a great diversity of soil types in Savoie: moraines (glacial deposits), alluvial soils, river terraces (river stone over clay), terraced steep limestone scree slopes, and the 'molasse' basin.
Ultimately, Savoie presents an incredible patchwork of soils that came from the epochs that erected the Alps during the Cretaceous and Jurassic periods.
There is terrific value here, a hidden gem indeed - SAVOIE! Wine with beautiful expression, tiny production levels, relatively low alcohol and made in a pure, clean style which are somewhat unmatched in quality/value for French wines.
See you this week!! Here's the lineup: