The terrible heat wave now spreading through Western Europe is wreaking havoc in so many ways including scorched vineyards. When we lived in Italy, to escape the Italian summer unbearable heat, hubby and I would drive up to the mountains to find fresh cool Alpine air.
One of my memorable trips was driving through the French Alps during August and September. I appreciated the respite from the city heat to enjoy the drastic drop in temperatures and the overcast cloud coverage for a few days’ vacation in Savoie Wine region. In particular, a quaint lake town of Annecy known as ‘Venice of the Alps’.
Located in the northeast part of France, Savoie is Latin meaning for ‘Country of Fir Trees’ and was once part of the Roman Empire. This area’s long rich history included part of the Frankish Kingdom of Burgundy then around 11th C. became the House of Savoie. This Kingdom was included within European culture of ‘Era of Absolutism’ comprising of kingdoms’ warring factions including geopolitical motives and marriage alliances.
This Alpine wine region has a fruitful viniculture history. Grape vines in the Savoie wine region have been documented from 11th C. At its peak, 1889, more than 32,000 acres (13,000 hectares) of vines were growing around that area. The mountainous soil is composed of clay and limestone and the terraced wine fields abound on the lower slopes of the mountains below 1,640 feet (500 meters) in the valleys and piedmonts of the Alpines. (Source)
The most important white grapes are Chasselas (also make cool refreshing wines from Switzerland) and Grosse Rousette (also known as Altesse, Marsanne, Jacquere, Molette, Rousette). Other white grapes include Aligote, Chardonnay, Mondeuse Blanche, Pinot Gris, Verdesse (mostly used for Vin de Savoie). (Source)
A little side note, the Gringet grape can be found in subzone Haute-Savoie. Also FYI, Grosse Rousette and Rousette D’Ayze are grown in the AOC Roussette de Savoie. This area is renowned as France’s AOC wine destination for premier crisp wines.
Savoie wine region’s main red wine grapes are Mondeuse, Persan, Poulsard (primarily found in Jura wine region) and other red grapes include Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, Cha Etraire de la Dui (this varietal sounds sexy right?!), Gamay, Pinot Noir, and Joubertin. (Source)
These French Alpine wines are on many wino’s radar. This cool climate region is a foodie & wino’s match made in culinary delights, and Savoie wine region does not disappoint. A gastronomy mecca, I loved delving into the local wine and food pairing scene around the wine region, popping in and out of the many quaint historical cobblestone villages along wine road Rt 201.
I find that Savoie wine region has a fantastic foodie scene. Around this area, Escargot cuisine is cooked in many styles and offered in non-pretentious restaurants. Of course, as they say, what grows together goes together and snails thrive in this region’s climate. Moist cool temperatures and shady cloud coverage, snails and I both like this summer weather. Escargot, needless to say, is more affordable in this part of France, therefore, they are often the featured foods on the menus to pair with their local Savoie wines.
I must say, there is a big difference between tasting a countryside escargot exported in an upscale Paris restaurant and tasting this delish decadence from the farm to table concept featuring local traditional cuisine flare.
Savoie’s fresh crisp white wines pair nicely with these types of fatty and/or buttery foods and probably why the restaurants offer many creamy dishes. Maybe some creditable wine and food pairing aficionados disagree and fall into the ideology camp of ‘Don’t disservice this fresh driven wine with heavy laden foods’, luckily, I had the very fortune to vacation around the local vibe and as the adage applies ‘When in ….’
Does this two-hour lunch look scrumptious? I find that Savoie white wines complement this entree because the focused acidity of the wine cuts right through this rich cream fish dish.
The cheese selection around the Savoie wine region is another delicacy I would love to explore. France recognizes the hierarchical cheese status as Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC) or Appellation d’Origine Protegee (AOP). These honorable designations identify the region, village, methods, traditions, production, livestock, customs, and other mandatory requirements to meet top tier cheese status. There are so many local cheese flavors around Savoie to indulge pairing with wine & food, yet, I like pairing their zesty wines with their softer cheeses such as Reblochon and Beaufort. The cheeses tasting notes are nutty & buttery and are delicious when enjoyed with their crisp wines.
Lake Annecy in the French Alps
One of these cute historical town around the Savoie wine region is Annecy. Known as ‘Venice of the Alps’, Annecy is a picturesque lake town that should not be missed while up in that scenic neck of the woods. The hot summer months, for me, was the perfect time of year to go enjoy a respite from the valley and city summer heat as it delivers cooler temperatures, mountain breezes, vibrantly vivid flowers, colorful timber-beamed houses, and winding canals set along the Alpine backdrop and amazingly tasting fresh mountain water.
Wine tourism around the area includes the Lake’s water sports and activities ranging from mild or extreme sports for the adrenaline junkies. Not for me, yet, I got a kick out of watching the lake scene while enjoying it from various café views throughout the day.
Many café stops throughout the day while sightseeing the historical tourist spots. Mussels and French fries are a staple in this town.
One café with a view of Palais de Lile
Another feature of Annecy is walking around town and stumbling upon wine tastings in the town’s winery caves. Wineries around this wine country offer tastings in old underground cellars. That is one of many things I love about France’s wine regions, the cute villages that offer cellars you can step down into time and taste French history.
The French Alps in the Summer is probably one of my favorite memories while living in Europe.
References and Helpful Sites:
The Delong 100 Grape Varietal Challenge encourages all wine enjoyers to expand their wine drinking horizon by seeking out unusual grape varieties. These past few years, I have tasted over 180 grape varieties. After all, there are over thousands of grape varieties world wide. With so many wine grapes, styles of wine, and wineries to explore, wine is an educational adventure. So grab your virtual passport and come along with me on a Grape EdVenture™ around the world.