With over two millennia of history, the Savoie region (once considered part of the Elite in Europe) has again proven its ability to produce highly sought-after wines. The vineyards, planted before the Romans’ time, are nestled within the French Alps in a picturesque setting looking at the Mont-Blanc, on steep slopes similar to Côte-Rôtie.
A French department set in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, it sits within the French Alps. One of the most Eastern set wine regions, Savoie vineyards sit in this mountainous area just south of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) and shares a border with Switzerland. The proximity to Switzerland and the mountains surrounding it has defined and refined the wines of the region into unique fragmented, hilly and slightly Swiss wines.
As a territory, Savoie was initially shared between France, Italy, and Switzerland. France gained control in 1792, yet within 25 years it was returned to Italian ownership. It was the Treaty of Turin, 1860, that reaffirmed French ownership over the land, subsequently split across two departments: Savoie and Haute-Savoie. In 1973 the wine region officially gained AOC status.
During that prominent time, Savoie was a powerful wine region with 20,000 hectares planted on the complex slopes of the mountain. Since then, most of the top vineyards perished due to the tragedy of phylloxera and World War I. These devastating events pushed farmers into working overtime to keep their vineyards intact. Now drastically reduced to 3,000 hectares, those that have replanted have moved on to flat ground, where it is easier for machine use but unfortunately often compromises the grape quality.
The past twenty years has seen a revival of sorts in the region, with growers re-invigorating previously neglected plots, and creating critically acclaimed wines.
Fun Fact: Savoie hosted the 1992 Winter Olympics
Climate & Soil
Located close to a variety of different bodies of water and sitting well within the mountainous region, it has a myriad of terroirs allowing a unique array of grapes to be grown. The lakes of Bourget and Geneva help to moderate the climate along with the mountain's protection from the north-west weather patterns. With an overall continental climate there are mixtures of alpine and Mediterranean influence, along with general techniques by the Swiss to influence the eventuating wines.
Within the Alps the vines sit upon primarily south facing slopes, where there is favourable sunlight exposure and drainage. Also making it incredibly difficult for machines to make their way through the vineyards, leading to primarily hand harvesting every year. Of course, the higher the planting the lower the temperature, with the elevated appellations more susceptible to the frost but the maritime climate along with the limestone soils (which reflect the absorbed heat back onto the vines after dark) help protect against frost.
Representing less than 1% of wine production in France, it makes up for it in the unique varietals used within each bottle.
White Grapes: Primary - Jacquere, Altesse, and Chasselas. Secondary - Grignet, Marsanne, Molette, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay.
Red Grapes: Primary - Mondeuse and Persan. Secondary - Pinot Noir, Gamay, Poulsard.
Within the Savoie region there are 4 different Appellations that the AOC Classifies:
Vin de Savoie AOP: (since 1973) Consisting of 16 crus that produce all forms of wines.
Crus: Abymes, Apremont, Chignin, Crépy, Jongieux, Chautagne, Cruet, Jongieux, Montmélian, Saint-Jeoire-Prieuré, Marin, Marignan, Ripaille, Chignin-Bergeron, Ayze, Arbin, Saint-Jean-de-la-Porte, Chautagne, Chignin.
Roussette de Savoie AOP: (since 1973) Consisting of 4 crus of only white wine, all made from 100% Altesse.
Crus: Frangy, Marestel, Monthoux, Monterminod.
Seyssel AOP: All dry whites and sparkling wines, primarily produced from the Altesse and Chasselas that come from the communes of Seyssel and Corbonod.
Crémant de Savoie AOP: Classified since 2014, an appellation creating sparkling wines with a minimum of 60% local grape blend of (Jacquère and Altesse) and 40% of the final blend being Jacquère.